The highly anticipated 2010 offseason has lived up its billing as one of the most dramatic, controversial summers in league history. From the WWE-style arrival of the Super Friends in Miami, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert’s now infamous lambasting of LeBron James to Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony’s escape plans, NBA management and players alike haven’t exactly provided a shining example of class or character over the past few months.
For the majority of their history, the Lakers franchise has excelled in both of those areas—led by the now legendary business model initiated by L.A. great, Jerry West. As West explained during an inspirational speech at the West Virginia Business Summit earlier this week, it is a model that is rooted in treating people the right way.
West shared a story at the summit about a man who used to escort him to his car when he was with the Lakers and the impact it had on him both at the time and still today.
“I came to practice, I came to games, always expecting to see him,” West said. “Whether we lost or not, he was always the same. I was away three years. When I came back, I learned he was going to retire.”
West even attended the man’s retirement party, where the employee praised the Hall-of-Famer for always remembering the little people.
“I walked into the room,” West recalled. “There were 50 people there. This guy had a very menial job. He got up and talked about the people who were important to his life. He saved me for last. He said, ‘Jerry, I want to thank you for how you treated me. One of my proudest moments was to get to know you, take you to your car, and how you treated me.’
“It was a great lesson,” West said. “When we’re involved in a big corporation or trying to grow a business and make the state more successful, we cannot forget these people. They are the essence and fiber of any organization. I don’t care if you make $10 million, that person making $10,000 might be more proud of their job than you are of yours. Don’t forget those people!”
With a possible lockout looming after this upcoming season, it is important to remember that sometimes, franchise’s still get it right—and that is something that almost always starts at the top. Though West has since removed himself from the game, the culture he created in L.A. still permeates throughout Lakers Land. Jerry remains the standard by which all other league staff are judged—a fitting role for the league’s ever-present Logo.