WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — President Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West on Thursday.
West is a West Virginia native who played 14 seasons with the L.A. Lakers and eventually moved into executive positions with teams including the Lakers, Warriors and Clippers. His classic ball-handling silhouette has become the NBA logo.
West joins fellow NBA star Bob Cousy and golfer Tiger Woods as recent sports idols to receive one of the nation’s highest civilian honors from the president.
The 81-year-old West was known as Mr. Clutch for his ability to score under pressure. He averaged nearly 27 points per game over his career.
“Over the course of his 14 NBA seasons he broke the record for the most points scored in the history of the Lakers,” Trump said.
West rose from humble beginnings. During the ceremony he recalled his West Virginia roots.
“I was a dreamer, my family didn’t have much, but we had a clear view of the Appalachian Mountains,” West said.
West says chasing a dream, and a basketball, took him to the highest levels of the sport, including winning an Olympic gold medal.
As Lakers general manager, West played a key role in attracting superstars, and brought 4 championships to Los Angeles.
But President Trump says the contributions made outside of sports also deserve recognition
“Jerry works harder than anyone I can imagine, helping our nation’s veterans.”
It’s a life well played, on and off the court, that have earned him the nation’s highest civilian honor.
West will be the eighth basketball figure to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, following Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy and coaches John Wooden, Pat Summitt and Dean Smith