A Tribute to Jerry West and Bill Walton

Jerry West

Jerry West, known as “Mr. Clutch” for his remarkable ability to perform under pressure, was a 14-time All-Star and a key player in the Los Angeles Lakers’ success during the 1960s and 1970s. His silhouette became the inspiration for the NBA logo, a testament to his iconic status in the league. He was aptly nicknamed “The Logo”. After retiring, West continued to shape the game as a successful executive, helping build championship-winning teams for the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.

In my opinion, as a player, he was a basketball genius who changed the way the game was played on the court. As an executive, he forever changed the way teams looked at scouting and the process of team building. His instincts and ability to evaluate talent were second to none.

Jerry was also one of my fathers’ favorite players and by default became one of my favorite players. No one could shoot the ball like “Mr. Clutch”. And although he was slightly before my time, I had the benefit of having a father who educated his sons on NBA history. We watched the old tapes. We ate, slept and drank basketball growing up. Jerry, without a doubt, was a tenacious player who never quit. He was the epitome of how basketball should be represented and played. For those very reasons, his likeness is forever emblazoned on basketball jerseys worldwide as the logo of the NBA.

Bill Walton

Bill Walton, on the other hand, was a charismatic and talented center who played for three teams during his career. He was a UCLA legend who learned under the late great John Wooden and became a legendary ambassador for the sports program at UCLA, much like Kareem. Despite facing numerous injuries, Walton’s passion for the game never wavered. He was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in 1974. He was a skilled passer, rebounder and shot blocker, earning him the NBA Finals MVP award in 1977, as the Trailblazers defeated our childhood idol Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bill also had a short but amazing stretch with the Boston Celtics from 1986 to 1988. I’d have to say that 1986 championship team in particular goes down in history as one of the top 5 NBA teams of all time. Walton won the “Sixth Man of the Year” award that year and it’s safe to say, the Celtics don’t clinch that championship without him. Bill was a gritty player who toughed out a legendary career, hampered by numerous injuries. I can only imagine what his already stellar career would have been like without those injuries.

After retiring, Walton became a beloved broadcaster, sharing his infectious enthusiasm for basketball with fans around the world. Bill was probably the greatest Grateful Dead loving hippy the sport has ever seen. Watching him as a kid, running the court with a headband atop his fiery red head of hair was a site to see. Watching him play was an enjoyable education in learning fundamentally sound basketball. He was an unselfish player who was willing to sacrifice for the team. After he retired, watching him on NBC telecasts was one of the most enjoyable experiences I had as a basketball fan. Bill Walton and Marv Albert will go down in history as one of the best broadcasting teams of all time, in my opinion.