Manchin addresses U.S. Senate in commemoration of Jerry West

PRESS RELEASE:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, (I-WV) – on Monday – spoke on the Senate Floor to honor the life and legacy of NBA legend, proud West Virginian and wonderful friend, Jerry West.

“With God-given talent and unmatched character, Jerry’s life has benefited the people of our home state in a profound way,” Manchin said. “The legacy he leaves behind is undoubtedly an integral part of our heritage. He was a very dear friend to me and a proud ambassador for the Mountain State.”

“His thoughts were models for how to manage success, failure and change—how to take the lessons you’ve learned, adapt them and go on to improve the world around you,” Manchin continued. “From the coalfields of West Virginia to basketball’s biggest stages, Jerry always demonstrated his mastery of the sport with grace and humility. It is my hope that his family and friends can find peace, strength and comfort in one another during the loss of this wonderful person.”

Watch Sen. Manchin’s full address on the Senate Floor on YouTube.

The full transcript of Manchin’s prepared remarks are below:

M. President, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of a world-class athlete, NBA executive, proud West Virginian and my very dear friend, Jerry West. Often referred to as one of the greatest American basketball players of all time, his career led him to success—joining the greats in stadiums across America—far from his hometown in the Mountain State.

Born in Chelyan in 1938, Jerry spent the beginning of his life in a small town in southern West Virginia. He faced many health and family challenges as a young boy but spent a lot of time shooting hoops in his backyard. At East Bank High School, he began educating himself on the ins and outs of the sport he loved. Jerry quickly began to excel in the game as the star of his beloved high school team. His jump shot was always his trademark and allowed him to stand out even as a young player. Jerry attended West Virginia University, where his already well-developed skills and unyielding consistency were notable characteristics of his playing ability. He consistently averaged double digits in points, rebounds and assists in almost every major game. In the 1960 Summer Olympics, he won a gold medal as co-captain of the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team.

Following his second overall selection in the NBA Draft of the same year by the Minneapolis Lakers, Jerry continued to be a powerhouse on the court as the team moved to Los Angeles. “Mr. Clutch,” as he was known, sank a staggering number of winning baskets from both the field and free throw line. With his signature jump extending 16 inches above the rim, his defense as well as offense was solid, but often, it was his work ethic that was the envy of his teammates.

One of the reasons that Jerry was so successful is that he was never one to back down from a challenge. Like all of us, he experienced setbacks in life, which weren’t always met with victory. Those are the types of situations where a person’s true character shows through. He always believed that hard work, dedication and perseverance will get you where you need to be—win or lose.

With Jerry’s leadership on the court, the Lakers continued to rise through the ranks. In the subsequent seasons, he racked up a staggering number of notable accomplishments. During his 14 years with the Lakers, he was voted 12 times to the All-NBA First and Second Teams, elected to the NBA All-Star team 14 times and continues to hold the NBA record for highest average points in a playoff series. At the time of his retirement as a player in 1974, he had scored more points than any other Los Angeles Laker in franchise history. Jerry capped his momentous career with two enshrinements in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player. He is scheduled to be added a third time this fall as a contributor for his work as an executive and consultant.

His innate talent shined through both on and off the court. He continued with the Lakers, coaching for a short time, leading them to three playoffs and a conference final. Shortly after, his longstanding presence with the Lakers continued as an executive. Many looked to him for direction on how the game of basketball should evolve. The franchise continued to bypass others, which quite literally defined the sport throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. He set the team up to sign and retain some of the most celebrated names in basketball history, helping him to earn his notoriety with the NBA community that still continues today.

With the skill to take whatever team he was with to new heights, Jerry worked with the Grizzlies, the Warriors and the Clippers to improve their stagnant franchises. The teams would not be what they are today without his guidance. When you think of basketball, you think of Jerry West. One of the sport’s most notable icons, it is only fitting that his legacy has been forever commemorated in the NBA logo. From his skills on the court to his unrivaled knowledge of the game, from all perspectives, he continues to have a lasting impact on the sports world.

His thoughts were models for how to manage success, failure and change—how to take the lessons you’ve learned, adapt them and go on to improve the world around you. I’m honored to have been present at the Oval Office of the White House when Jerry was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019. I can only begin to imagine how many leaders Jerry forged throughout his time and how many of his former teammates and colleagues still look up to him to this day.

In that spirit, I am forever grateful to Jerry for his commitment to the sports community as well as our shared passion for representing the people of West Virginia. With God-given talent and unmatched character, Jerry’s life has benefited the people of our home state in a profound way. The legacy he leaves behind is undoubtedly an integral part of our heritage. He was a very dear friend to me and a proud ambassador for the Mountain State. From the coalfields of West Virginia to basketball’s biggest stages, Jerry always demonstrated his mastery of the sport with grace and humility.

It is my hope that his family and friends can find peace, strength and comfort in one another during the loss of this wonderful person. Gayle and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife Karen, sons David, Michael, Mark, Ryan and Jonnie and all of his family, friends and loved ones. We will forever keep Jerry and his remarkable legacy in our thoughts and prayers.

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