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.
Nice read. Jerry West is clearly synonymous with class. The NBA couldn’t find a better man to represent their logo.
I’m not old enough to have seen him play. I can only vaguely remember him as the Laker coach as a kid. All I have are stories passed down by my dad.
Most of us know him more as the GM that constructed our championship teams. I did meet him once in Hawaii during training camp and got an autograph. He is truly as humble as a man can be.
He’s not only deservingly the face of the Laker organization but of the league as well. The Lakers are fortunate to have him as a mentor.
Great post, Jeff.
In some ways Jerry remained Zeke from Cabin Creek in his heart.
It’s important for all of us to never forget who we are.
In a sense, the Lakers (or any sports team) are a much larger organization that just the people officially on the payroll. The organization impacts it’s fans on a level, and over a period of time that most companies only wish they could attain with their employees. I’m not associated with the team in any way, and I actually pay them for the ability to see their product, but the moves the GM makes with the team impact me more emotionally than anything any of my bosses have done in the past 5 years. I can always walk away from a job, but I’m a Laker fan no matter how much the GM screws up.
In that sense, Jerry West touched each and every Laker fan in the same way that he touched the guy who opened his car door. Growing up in the 80s, I spent every summer secure in the fact that Jerry would find a way to keep the Lakers on top. And even during the rough period in the 90s, I was sure it was just a matter of time before he would pull something out of his had and get them on top again. And that trust was never misplaces.
It’s weird to think of it this way, but Jerry West was probably the first organizational leader many young fans ever relied on. He’s touched so many lives, and been such a great role model to more people than he can imagine.
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up.
One of the reasons that we Laker fans love Jerry West, is because of his unwavering humility. I always loved how he watched the Lakers games from the tunnel, too amped to take a seat.
Every single time I see the NBA logo, I think of the great man that it has in it.
“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln