Nowadays, Jerry West gets more mentioned for his crazy portrayal in HBO's Winning Time Series or his outstanding job as an NBA GM than his playing career. But there is a good reason why this man is the logo of the National Basketball Association, and sometimes people forget what kind of player West was -- so good that even the great Bobby Knight called him the greatest ever.
The biggest winner and loser
Being nicknamed "Mr. Clutch," despite having a 1-8 Finals Record, seems ridiculous, especially looking at today's standards, but the rings are not what defined Jerry's legacy. Playing in the era of Bill Russell's Celtics wasn't easy for West, as he lost six Finals to his arch-rivals from Boston.
Thankfully he would finally get his long-awaited ring in 1972 alongside Wilt Chamberlain versus the Knicks and show an admirable display of perseverance and winning attitude that was with the shooting guard for the whole of his career. That's why West was always considered a winner and respected amongst his peers despite his Finals track record not supporting that notion.
The West-Knight connection
While West was still in his playing days, he had built a good relationship with Bobby Knight, who was slowly building his coaching career as an assistant and eventually head coach in the Army. We all know what Bob Knight would become at Indiana and Texas Tech, being regarded as maybe even the best basketball coach of all time. The title of the scariest, toughest, and fiercest coach ever is not even up for debate when talking about Knight.
But at that time, Knight had great respect for West and his game, as proven in this interview from a few years ago when Jerry was asked about his opinion on Bobby:
"Bobby Knight, one of the most unique men I met in my life. Basketball genius, by the way. He and I were friends. He used to tell me all the time that I was the greatest basketball player to ever play, which was a compliment...For him to say that at point of his life, it was very meaningful to me."
Jerry West, The Universe Galaxy NBA
West went on to talk about his injury and the fact he always viewed defense as the best part of his game. The injury slowed him down vastly, but Knight's words of praise and encouragement gave Jerry the fuel he needed to continue to be one of the best in the world at the time and eventually a world champion after all the trouble earlier in his career.