NBA Logo passes at 86 yrs-NBA Finals pits Two Black Head Coaches-BCFHOF Legacy Photo

By Lenny Moon

The National Basketball Association community lost one of it’s icons recently with the passing of Jerome “Jerry” West. Known as “Mr Clutch” during his Hall of Fame career and the “NBA Logo” in more contemporary times, the Chelyan, West Virginia native was one of the most productive players the league has ever witnessed. His active playing career spanned from 1960-1974 which suggests that his impact on the game as a player would be foreign to the larger, younger roundball demographic.

West was proclaimed as the “NBA Logo” for bonafide reasons. Without going into the weeds with his vast amount of hardwood accomplishments in NBA arenas, Jerry was an NBA All-Star every single season that he laced them up (14 seasons). He was selected as a 10 x All-NBA First Team and a 4 x NBA All-Defensive First Team. The prolific Laker high octane scorer earned the status of being selected as a member of the NBA Anniversary Teams 35th, 50th and 75th respectively. His 14 year career scoring average was 27.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 6.7 apg. After being turned away by Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics six times in the NBA Finals during the 60s, his Lakers finally broke through in 1972 with a 69-13 regular season slate and procured his only NBA championship vs the New York Knicks in five games.

Jerry West was a superstar of the game, whose high level of play elevated when the stakes were higher in the playoffs. He has been the only player in league history to earn NBA Finals MVP in 1969 as a member of a losing team when his Lakers fell to Russell’s Celtics 4-3 and averaging nearly 38 ppg. His range was comparable to Steph Curry (without the 3-point line), excellent handle and at 6-3 was taller than most matchups during his era. He would go on to evolve as one of the most prolific player personnel talents in the league during his post playing days. It was West that placed his chips on a 17-year old teenager from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania that would go on to become a legend in his own right. That youngster was Kobe Bean Bryant; nuff said. As General Manager of the Lakers, the team would amass six championships during the “Showtime Lakers” era ( led by hall of famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy) and ultimately the Kobe-Shaq era.

In the 75 year history of what we now recognize as the National Basketball Association, there have only been two occasions when both sidelines were engineered by Black head coaches. At press time, we’re witnessing a third with the Boston Celtics vs Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla who never played a minute of NBA ball, became an assistant with Boston in 2019 where he served for 3 seasons in that capacity. Following the abrupt firing of his former boss Ime Udoka, the then 33-year old became the league’s youngest head coach. A point guard while at West Virginia University, the 6-2 former Mountaineer product was an assistant at Fairmont State prior to being bumped up to the grand stage. In a relatively short period of time, Mazzulla moved at a mercurial pace. Following his inheriting the reins in Boston as interim head coach last season, the soft spoken leader has propelled his team to two consecutive Atlantic Division titles including posting the best regular season record (64-18) in his first campaign as the official head coach and an appearance in the NBA Finals.

The second of the two Black head coaches facing off in the 2024 NBA Finals is Bay Area native Jason Kidd. Unlike his counterpart with Boston, Kidd was one of the top point guards in the country on both the collegiate and professional levels. Arriving on the college scene as the National High School Player of the Year, he chose local California-Berkley University where the 6-4 point guard’s play led to his earning Pac-10 Player of the Year (1994) and having his jersey retired by his alma mater in spite of playing for the Bears only two seasons. Kidd would go on to become the 2nd overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Following his productive 20-year NBA career as a player (including a NBA championship with Dallas in 2011 and two Gold Medals), “J-Kidd” was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. As a coach, Kidd has led all three of the teams he’s been the head coach (also Brooklyn and Milwaukee) to the playoffs. Since his return to Dallas in the coaching arena in 2021, he’s guided the Mavericks to 50 or more wins two of the last three campaigns including the 2024 NBA Finals appearance. Jason snared a championship ring as an assistant with Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 during the infamous “bubble” played in Orlando, Fl. (The other Black coach matchup in the history of the NBA Finals occurred in 1975 when Al Attles and his Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets coached by K.C. Jones 4-0. The most recent occurrence was 2016 when the Cleveland Cavaliers led by Tyronne Lue bested the Steph Curry powered Warriors 4-3 who were coached by Mike Brown (stepped in for a disabled Steve Kerr).

Among the Black College Football Hall of Fame inductees in attendance during the 15th annual induction ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Ga:
Antoine Bethea (2024)-14 yr NFL/ Howard, Mel Blount (2011)-PFHOF 1989/ Southern University, Harry Carson (2012)-PFHOF 2006/ South Carolina State, Ben Coates (2022)-SB XXXV Champion/ Livingstone College, Richard Dent (2015)-PFHOF 2011/ Tennessee State, Jimmy Giles (2021)-4X NFL Pro Bowl/ Alcorn State, James “Shack” Harris (2012)- NFL Pro Bowl MVP/ Grambling State, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (2018)- SB XII Champion/ Langston, Harold Jackson (2019)-5X NFL Pro Bowl/ Jackson State, Ed “Too Tall” Jones (2013)- 3X NFL Pro Bowl/ Tennessee State, Frank Lewis (2019)-SB IX and SB X Champion/ Grambling State, Greg Lloyd (2018)- 5X NFL Pro Bowl/ Fort Valley State, Nate Newton (2022)- SB XXVII, SB XXVIII and SB XXX Champion/ Florida A&M, Lamar Parrish (2024)-8X Pro Bowl/ Lincoln University, Robert Porcher (2017)- 3X Pro Bowl/ South Carolina State, Everson Walls (2018)- SB XXXV Champion/ Grambling State, Sammy White (2022)-2X NFL Pro Bowl/ Grambling State, Erik Williams (2011)- SB XXVII, SB XXVIII and SB XXX Champion/ Central State, Doug Williams (2011)- SB XXII MVP/ Grambling State and Aeneas Williams (2016)- PFHOF 2014/ Southern University.

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