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Jerry West Never Left His Game

(Original Caption) Lakers' Jerry West (C) is guarded closely by Celtics' Bill Russell (L) as he goes in for a layup, 3rd period, 1st game of championship playoffs of the NBA, Boston Garden (4/18). Celtics' Willie Naulls is on the right. Celtics won the game, 142-110.
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Jerry West, who died Wednesday morning at age 86, never actually admitted to being The Logo and even proclaimed more than once that he wouldn't mind if it was changed to Michael Jordan’s silhouette. Both are gentle lies. He'd have eaten porcupines and spit the needles through his teeth to defend the iconic image and what it represented.

Him. His life. The tortures and triumphs, both worn boldly on his lapel as well as his face. The incandescent white hair and the pushed-in beak from years of chasing Bill Russell's championships face-first. The ring he stayed an extra year to win, and the rings he collected as a player (one) and executive (eight). And the multiple, as in three, Hall of Fame plaques that either sit in Springfield or will when his next induction ceremony happens in October.

Yeah, three. One as a player, one as an Olympian, and soon to be as a Contributor. Three is more than Russell or John Wooden or Lenny Wilkens or Bill Sharman or Tommy Heinsohn. Also more than Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon or Charles Barkley or Pat Riley or anyone else you want to consider more contemporary because there aren't that many things to be good at in the modern era. Two is ridiculous—Red Auerbach isn't a Hall of Famer twice, to give you an idea. It's hard to be that good that often and at that many things. And if you believe that halls of fame are designed mostly to honor friends and punish enemies, it's harder still to be liked that much to be honored that often. 

Oh, and by noting that he will be the first three-time Hall of Famer, we are shorting him his place and plaque in the College Basketball Hall of Fame. 

The Logo was an apt choice in 1969 while he was still a player known most for his shooting form and his six Finals defeats, seven if you count the 1959 Final Four, and his death today reminds us that it remains truer for him than for anyone else. He is the guy who mattered for nearly seven decades in the sport. West could be a wearing figure, as he was always acutely aware of his place in a room, but he also left jobs more often because he was most expert of all at wearing his tortured soul outside his suit. It is instructive that the team that announced his death and employed him last was the Los Angeles Clippers rather than the Lakers, who are celebrating 40 days without a coach.

His flattened nose spoke to his willingness to get into collisions, and his many second-place finishes behind the Celtics (and the one at West Virginia when the Mountaineers lost to Cal) imprinted themselves onto his soul. He was the living embodiment of Agony with the first best spot-up jumper in the game's history.

There will doubtless be new suggestions about replacing the logo because we hate our history, often for good reason. But we would suggest that any new Logo will have to start collecting hall-of-fame busts at a more profligate rate, and nobody's giving Michael Jordan a plaque for owning the Hornets. The logo is fine. All hail The Logo.

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