The Logo is the ultimate architect behind successful teams
Jerry West is the ultimate architect behind championship-caliber teams and those squads that eventually become dynasties. After having a HOF career as a player, West expanded on his knowledge working for various franchises on executive positions and is probably one of the world's best GMs and basketball minds. As a Lakers legend, he stayed the most extended period working for his favorite team. He was behind the scene in creating the Lakers powerhouse, featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
After the Lakers signed Shaq in 1996, he joined a young and talented group of players that still wasn't on the championship-caliber level. Shaq knew that when he joined the Lakers and was willing to be patient but after a tough loss to the Utah Jazz in the 1998 Conference Finals, he felt disappointed and furious at the same time. The Jazz completely dismantled the Lakers in that series and ruined their opportunity to have a big showdown in the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.
The advice and promise West gave to Shaq
Shaq was considered one of the best players in the NBA; however, he was also portrayed as a loser and someone who couldn't take his team to the promised land. After that tough loss to the Jazz, Shaq was so mad he started tearing down the locker room, and it was Jerry West who walked in and provided much-needed calmness and guidance. In his book "Shaq Talks Back," Shaq remembers that moment with West.
"What the hell are you mad about? The other guys didn't help you, plain and simple. You haven't got it together yet. But trust me, we will." And then he said something that changed my whole perspective about my career, something that gave me hope. I knew a lot about Jerry West as a GM, but it turns out I didn't know enough about him as a player.
As a player, Jerry West was in a similar situation as Shaq, especially in the first decade of his career when his most prominent rivals were the Boston Celtics. West told Shaq how he went to the NBA Finals 9 straight times and lost every time. Luckily for him, he learned patience is the key and continually worked on his game to be the best version of himself. That resonated with Shaq and made him change his mindset about being more patient and being a better leader.
"You know I went to the finals nine times before I won?" he said. That eased the pain. I remember driving home that day, thinking, "Damn, this would be a good commercial."
Jerry understood the Lakers were a few steps behind the best teams in the NBA at that time, so he promised Shaq he would get him all the help he needed. Also, having a conversation with someone with so much experience made Shaq calmer and focused on what he needed to do to be the best version of himself.
Jerry told me, "You're going to be all right. You haven't got the right team. I'm going to get you some pieces, I promise you."
Nine times to the finals and no ring? He hurt a lot worse than me. Compared to Jerry West, I didn't even know what pain was. From that moment, I felt a lot better about the future. I stopped trying to destroy the weight room and started to think about fixing my career."
Jerry West is the creator of NBA dynasties
It wasn't long until Jerry West delivered the promise to Shaq and surrounded him with enough firepower while creating a basketball dynasty that is still incredibly respected in NBA history. West decided to trade a few players like Eddie Jones, Nick Van Exel, and Elden Campbell while giving more minutes to Kobe Bryant and Derrick Fisher. On top of that, he brought in a few veterans like Ron Harper, Shaq's friend from Orlando Brian Shaw, and Glen Rice, who gelled perfectly with the core group and went on to have a dominant regular season capped off with the NBA title. He brought in Phil Jackson as the head coach because he knew this team needed a great coach with experience handling big egos.
Building a championship team is not an easy task, and it's a process that can last a few years before you get all the pieces necessary under the suitable contract arrangements. West was always a master at making the best deals, drafting the right players, and setting a benchmark on how an NBA franchise operates internally. His experience as a player helped West understand players like Shaq, who just wanted to win, but also the business side of things that enables him to make the moves that will help Shaq get in the position to be an NBA champion.
After having that vital conversation with Jerry, and him making his promise to Shaq, the Lakers went on to win 3 straight NBA championships in 4 final appearances. West was able to recognize what the team needed to make the right moves at the right time to have a well-rounded roster capable of going to the end. He motivated Shaq and put things in perspective for him, and the historic success by the Lakers soon followed after that.