Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan releases statement on NBA legend Jerry West's passing

Bulls icon honors Hall of Fame player, executive

NBC Universal, Inc.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Greatness knows greatness.

And the depth to Michael Jordan's statement honoring NBA legend Jerry West following news of West's passing on Wednesday speaks to the appreciation Jordan owned for his fellow Hall of Famer.

West, who rose from humble West Virginia beginnings to star for the Los Angeles Lakers as a player, coach and executive and made significant impact on other franchises and the entire league, was 86.

"I am so deeply saddened at the news of Jerry's passing. He was truly a friend and mentor---like an older brother to me," Jordan's statement said. "I valued his friendship and knowledge. I always wished I could have played against him as a competitor, but the more I came to know him, I wish I had been his teammate.

"I admired his basketball insights and he and I shared many similarities to how we approached the game. He will be forever missed! My condolences to his wife, Karen, and his sons. RIP, Logo."

West's legendary basketball resume indeed involves the league logo being fashioned after his likeness. West participated in nine championship teams (one as a player, eight as an executive), earned 14 All-Star Game berths, 10 first-team All-NBA selections and two NBA Executive of the Year awards.

Legendary Los Angeles Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn nicknamed him "Mr. Clutch" for his propensity to hit big shots. And his legendary competitiveness indeed seemed a match for that of Jordan's.

But Jordan acknowledging how he and West viewed the game similarly made for Jordan's even more intriguing "what if." Seeing Jordan and West as teammates would bring a smile to any NBA fan's face.

Jordan, obviously, isn't the only NBA heavyweight to acknowledge West's impact. Fellow Hall of Famer and Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf called West "NBA royalty" in his statement.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my long-time friend and colleague, Jerry West," Reinsdorf's statement began. "On behalf of the Chicago Bulls, I extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Jerry’s wife Karen, his family, and NBA fans everywhere who have suffered an immeasurable loss. I treasure my many times with Jerry West, benefiting from his devotion, respect for, and knowledge of the game.

"Jerry West was NBA royalty, and he embodied basketball perhaps more than anyone ever involved in the game. Though he wasn’t the biggest scorer, he still holds the record for the highest scoring average in a playoff series. He wasn’t the strongest, the fastest, or the biggest, but he is ultimately identified with the game as the silhouette in the NBA logo. In many respects, Jerry West was basketball.

"His love and passion for the game resonated with every fan. Jerry endured disappointment and frustration as his beloved Los Angeles Lakers lost six consecutive times in the NBA Finals. Despite this, he became the only NBA player to be named Finals MVP from a losing team. With the resilient spirit that defined him, stemming from his humble West Virginia roots, he came back again and again, even against my childhood team, the New York Knicks, I found myself rooting for him, eventually leading his Lakers to success. One of my most lasting basketball memories is his famous 60-foot shot to force overtime in Game 3 of the 1970 Finals. His range of interests and knowledge about the game made him one of the best executives in NBA history."

LeBron James, in a post to his social media feed, called West a "mentor" and "friend" and expressed his hope to "continue to make (West) proud."

Pau Gasol, who played with the Memphis Grizzlies when West served as an executive there, offered a touching tribute as well on his social media feed.

West will posthumously be enshrined as a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer for the third time this Fall, honoring his work as an executive with a contributor nod. He entered as a player in 1979 and as a member of the gold-medal-winning 1960 U.S. Olympic team in 2010.

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