National Basketball Association
Remembering Jerry West: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson pay respects
National Basketball Association

Remembering Jerry West: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson pay respects

Updated Jun. 12, 2024 8:01 p.m. ET

The sports world and basketball community just lost a giant.

Jerry West, who had one of the greatest careers as a player and executive in NBA history, died Wednesday morning. He was 86 years old.

Tributes to West began to pour in on social media shortly after his passing was announced. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Adam Silver and many others in the sports world paid their respects to West, who served as the inspiration for the NBA's logo.

[Related: Jerry West and the 10 greatest Lakers of all time]


Magic Johnson

West was the Lakers' general manager when the club selected Johnson with the No. 1 overall pick in 1979. Johnson recalled his first meeting with West when he joined the Lakers in a lengthy statement Wednesday.

"I met Jerry West for the first time in 1979 at the Forum where he introduced me to Bill Sharman, Chick Hearn, and then Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke," Johnson began. "My father, agent and I negotiated over lunch then Jerry took me to the locker room to show me my Lakers jersey. I started to cry and Jerry explained to me the expectation of wearing the purple and gold, how he saw my role, and how he envisioned me fitting into the organization. I’ll never forget that moment.   

"When training camp began, he gave me so many golden nuggets and really critiqued every facet of my game. After every practice he would give me notes on how I could get better and those sessions carried over to the regular season. Once a week we went over what I needed to improve and how I could dominate in the league. Those meetings meant everything to me because I learned so much from him."

That offseason began a friendship that spanned until the end of West's life, Johnson shared. He recalled several moments in which West supported him over the 45 years that they knew each other. 

"We had a basketball camp in Hawaii called the Jerry West Magic Johnson Fantasy Camp for 20 years," Johnson continued. "At the camp we shared every meal together and that’s when we really bonded and solidified our great friendship outside of the Lakers. Jerry West was more than a general manager, he was a great friend and confidante. He was there in my highest moments, winning 5 NBA Championships, and in my lowest moment when I announced my HIV diagnosis and we cried together for hours in his office.   Every time I achieved a goal or crossed a milestone, one of the first calls I received was from Jerry West. When I started my business, was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame, was named Lakers President of Basketball Operations – he would always pick up the phone and give me a personalized call to congratulate me."

Johnson also gave his appreciation for what West did as a player and as the Lakers GM before offering his condolences to his loved ones. 

"Beyond his basketball accolades as a basketball player and NBA executive, Jerry West was a great man, a leader of men, fiercely loved his family and friends, and despite holding jobs with other franchises, he was a Lakers fan for life," Johnson said. "Laker Nation, the only reason we have 17 NBA championships is because of Jerry West and his expertise drafting players, trading for players, and hiring the right coaches. Today is a sad day for basketball fans and sports fans across the globe.   

"Cookie and I are just devastated and continue to lift up his beautiful wife Karen; sons David, Mark, Michael, Ryan and Jonnie, extended family, and loved ones in prayer."

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers later released a statement.

"Jerry West is forever a basketball icon," the Lakers said. "He brought Lakers fans their first championship in Los Angeles in 1972 and was integral to another six titles during his time with us. Our thoughts are with the West family and the many NBA fans who honor his legacy. Jerry West will always be a Lakers legend."

LeBron James

The Los Angeles Lakers star paid tribute to one of the greats that came before him in Los Angeles on Wednesday with a pair of tweets. 

"Will truly miss our convos my dear friend! My thoughts and prayers goes out to your wonderful family! Forever love Jerry! Rest in Paradise my guy!" James posted.

My mentor, My friend! Hopefully I continue to make you proud!" James posted in a follow-up tweet. "You're already missed!"

Adam Silver

The NBA commissioner released a statement Wednesday following the news of West's death.

"Jerry's four decades with the Lakers also included a successful stint as a head coach and a remarkable run in the front office that cemented his reputation as one of the greatest executives in sports history," Silver said in the statement. "He helped build eight championship teams during his tenure in the NBA - a legacy of achievement that mirrors his on-court excellence. And he will be enshrined this October into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, becoming the first person ever inducted as both a player and a contributor.

"I valued my friendship with Jerry and the knowledge he shared with me over many years about basketball and life. On behalf of the NBA, we send out deepest condolences to Jerry's wife, Karen, his family and his many friends in the NBA community."

Michael Jordan

The six-time NBA champion shared how much West meant to him in a statement.

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

"Rest in Peace, Logo."

Phil Jackson

The second chapter of Jackson's storied career as an NBA coach came when, in 1999, West and the Lakers hired him to elevate the roster he had built around Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant into championship contention.

Jackson did just that, leading the Lakers to the title in each of his first three seasons at the helm. He and West eventually butted heads, leading to the latter's departure from the Lakers in 2002, but Jackson had nothing but praise for West in a conversation with the Lakers' TV crew on Spectrum Sportsnet on Wednesday.

"It's a sad day in the NBA," Jackson said. "Jerry has been a vibrant, dynamic force in the league for as long as he played, as long as he's coached, and been a general manager. Jerry was a promoter of the NBA. Great mind and talent-search guy. He had a lot of insights into the NBA."

Oscar Robertson

The former Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks star released a heartfelt statement upon hearing of his "great friend's" passing. West and Robertson were teammates on the 1960 Olympic basketball team, and played against one another on numerous occasions. 

Pat Riley

The former head coach of the Lakers and Miami Heat president released a statement expressing his profound love for West. The two played for the Lakers together and remained important people in each other's lives. 

"We grew in life with each other and shared the best and worst of times together," Riley said. "We can only hope there is someone we meet during a crucial time in our lives that will change you in ways you could dream about. Jerry was that person for me."

Lakers icons react

Pau Gasol, who played under West when he was the Memphis Grizzlies' general manager for five seasons (2002-07), thanked The Logo in a social media post. 

"Rest in peace, dear Jerry. Thank you for everything you have done and given to this game," Gasol wrote. 

Shaquille O'Neal, who West signed to the Lakers in 1996, went to Instagram to share his love and appreciation for the basketball legend. 

"When we first met in Atlanta in the hotel at 3:30 am to discuss the possibility of me becoming a member of the Lakers, first thing you said after I signed the contract was we are about to do great things," Shaq wrote. "You talked about a young 17 year old that you had just traded for, and that together, Kobe and I would win several championships."

Byron Scott, who West drafted to be a part of the "Showtime" Lakers in the 1980s, also paid tribute to the Lakers great on Wednesday.

"It’s because of Jerry West that there was even 'Showtime,'" Scott wrote. "It’s because of you that I am who I am today. You believed in me when no one else did and for that I’m forever grateful. You will always be my "Basketball Dad". I love you Logo my heart is broken. You will be missed."

Michael Cooper, who also played for the "Showtime Lakers," was set to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame alongside West later this year. He's upset that his friend won't be alongside him.

"That’s the thing that hurts," Cooper told the Los Angeles Times. "When I found out today I started crying because I was going to really relish that because we go back to 1973. That man has been in my life all these years."

Scott and Cooper's former "Showtime Lakers" teammate James Worthy called West a "good friend" who was "so instrumental in my life away from the court" from the time he first met West in 1982.

"He was a sweetheart of a man and he really cared about people," Worthy, who now works as Lakers analyst as Spectrum Sportsnet, told the network. "What he gave to the game is second to none."

LA Clippers & owner Steve Ballmer 

The Clippers, whom West worked for since 2017, first announced his passing.

"Jerry West, the personification of basketball excellence and a friend to all who knew him, passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 86," the team shared. "His wife, Karen, was by his side."

Ballmer also reflected on his relationship with West in a social media post later in the day.

"This is a hard day," Ballmer wrote. "I am honored to call Jerry a confidant, an advisor and a friend. Connie, my wife, called him my ‘basketball dad.’ He was absolutely my basketball sage: wise, loyal and so much fun. If you were in his presence, you felt his competitiveness and his drive. He cared about everything and everyone. From the first day I met Jerry seven years ago, he inspired me with his intellect, honesty and enthusiasm. He never stopped. I spent a lot of time with him, some of the best times of my life. He always lent an ear, and he always had a quip. He always left me laughing. I will miss him."

FOX Sports personalities pay tribute to West

Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, Skip Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson, Colin Cowherd and Nick Wright all shared their favorite memories of West during FS1 shows on Wednesday.

Hall of Famer, NBA Legend and 'The Logo' Jerry West dies at age 86

Ric Bucher remembers Jerry West

Nick honors Jerry West with a history lesson on 'The Logo'

West Virginia

Before his excellence in the NBA, West was a two-time consensus first-team All-American at West Virginia. He led the Mountaineers to the national championship game in 1959. They fell short, but West won Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

"West Virginia University mourns the passing of the legendary Jerry West, an iconic figure in basketball history," the program shared in a social media post. "Forever a Mountaineer."

Fellow West Virginia Alum and Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla recalls how his experiences with West forever changed his life. 

Los Angeles Dodgers and Las Vegas Raiders

As West spent his entire playing career and the majority of his tenure as an executive in Los Angeles, teams in the city (past and present) shared their thoughts on the basketball icon.

"The Dodgers mourn the passing of NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers legend Jerry West, an indelible figure on the Los Angeles sports landscape for more than 60 years," the Dodgers shared. "We send our most sincere condolences to his family and friends."

Players who played under West offer condolences

Nick Van Exel, whom West drafted to the Lakers in 1993, and Nic Batum, whom West helped acquire in a signing with the Clippers in 2020, both took to social media to pay their respects. 

Other members of the basketball world react

Bill Russell's widow, Jeannine, shared the relationship West had with her husband. Russell and West played each other in the NBA Finals six times.

"So sad to hear about the loss of Jerry West," Jeannine Russell wrote. "Condolences to his family and friends. He and Bill had great love and respect for one another Bill won on the court but Jerry won on the course. #RIPJerry"

Kyle Kuzma shared a video of him meeting West on social media.

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

West was set to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for the third time in 2024, this time as a contributor for his work as an executive and consultant. He was previously inducted as a player in 1980 and as part of the 1960 U.S. men's Olympic team. 

"The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jerry West," the Hall of Fame shared in a statement. "As a player and an executive, his profound impact on the game of basketball is matched only by his character and integrity. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends in this difficult time. His contributions to basketball will be forever memorialized at the Hall of Fame."

Fans share favorite moments of West 

Several basketball fans also paid their respects to West on social media by resurfacing their favorite memories from The Logo. Some shared highlights from his playing days, including the iconic half-court buzzer-beater from Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Others posted the story he told of discovering Kobe Bryant following Kobe's untimely death in 2020, as well as a revealing quote West offered of himself.  

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