Maria Young Published

W.Va. Basketball Great Jerry West Dies

White haired man in a dark suit pointing to the side.
FILE - Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Jerry West, representing the 1960 USA Olympic Team, speaks during the enshrinement news conference at the Hall of Fame Museum in Springfield, Mass. Friday, Aug. 13, 2010. Jerry West, who was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame three times in a legendary career as a player and executive and whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning, June 12, 2024, the Los Angeles Clippers announced. He was 86.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

Updated on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 at 2 p.m.

Jerry West – whose struggling childhood in Chelyan, West Virginia earned him the nickname “Zeke from Cabin Creek” shortly after he began a storied career with the Los Angeles Lakers – died Wednesday morning at the age of 86.

Announcing his passing on X, the Los Angeles Clippers where West worked as a team consultant, said he was “the personification of basketball excellence and a friend to all who knew him.” 

In a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jim Justice remembered good times turkey hunting with West and called him a “superstar” saying, “We celebrate the great life of a gentleman that we lost and a hero in every way in West Virginia, basically in many ways what we stand for, Jerry West.” 

“From his time as a record-breaking basketball player in the WVU Field House to his success in the front offices of some of the most respected sports franchises in America, Jerry brought his unique abilities, innovative spirit and quiet strength — the very best of what it means to be a Mountaineer,” Gee said in a statement.

WVU Athletic Director Wren Baker called it “one of the saddest days ever for West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia,” and said West was “a true gentlemen, one of the greatest players and executives the NBA has ever seen and certainly the most famous West Virginia Mountaineer of all time.” 

After his time at WVU West played for the Lakers for 14 years, was co-captain of the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team and was an All-Star every year of his NBA Career. Later, he became an executive, credited with drafting Magic Johnson and James Worthy, then bringing in Kobe Bryant and eventually Shaquille O’Neal to play alongside Bryant.

Twice enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame – in 1980 as a player and in 2010 as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team – he will be enshrined for a third time later this year as a contributor.

He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019. 

**Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include statements from Gov. Jim Justice, WVU President Gordon Gee and WVU vice president and director of Athletics Wren Baker.