WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gov. Jim Justice was in attendance at the White House today, as President Donald J. Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jerome Alan “Jerry” West, a native son of West Virginia and widely regarded as one of the National Basketball Association’s greatest players and executives of all-time.
Joining the President for the ceremony in the Oval Office – along with Gov. Justice – were United States Senator Joe Manchin, West's family and friends, and legendary basketball player and coach Willie Akers.
The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor that can be bestowed upon an individual by the President for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“Jerry West is a legend and it has been my pleasure to know him and to be a close friend for many years now,” Gov. Justice said. “He is an incredible human being and is a shining light for West Virginia and our great country.
“President Trump couldn’t have picked a better person for this tremendous honor.”
West, who was born in Chelyan, Kanawha County, on May 28, 1938, was a standout athlete at East Bank High School and West Virginia University. In 1956 he led East Bank to a high school basketball state championship and was chosen as a High School All American. In 1959, he led WVU to the NCAA national championship game, capping an incredible collegiate career where he was a two-time All American. He was named the co-captain of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team that won the Gold Medal and was drafted into the NBA by the Minneapolis Lakers as the second overall pick.
Nicknamed “Mr. Clutch,” he spent 14 years as a player in the NBA with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers and was a 14-time All Star, 12-time All NBA selection, MVP of the All Star game in 1972, and won one NBA title. In 1980 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and was chosen in 1996 as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time.
Following his playing career, West went on to coach the Lakers, later becoming their general manager. He later was hired as general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies and was twice named NBA Executive of the Year. West also has served in executive leadership roles with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers.
For decades, the NBA’s logo has featured a silhouette of West.