I just wanted to share with you a sampling of West's greatest ever games (Post season only, of course) so that you all can bask in his greatness. In my opinion these are his 10 best, taking into account the importance and magnitude of the game, and the opposition....
1) 1969 Finals, Game 1, Celtics
53/3/10 (21/41, 11/13)
Lakers win 120-118
53 points, 10 assists, and a 4th quarter comeback engineered by West, was the catalyst for Bill Russell to exclaim "I have never seen a better clutch player than Jerry West" immediately following the Celtics loss. After a back and forth first 3 quarters that saw 21 lead changes, Boston, on the back of Havlicek's relentless scoring, managed to eek ahead by 7 points with just 10 minutes remaining. It was West's seventeen 4th quarter points that brought the Lakers back into it, and they were just 1 point behind with around 2 minutes to go. West then put the finishing touches on his vituoso performance by making back to back elbow jumpers and burying 2 crucial free throws that put L.A up by 3 points with 4 seconds left. An exhausted West exclaimed "Give me two sleeping pills" to his trainer following the win.
West was being guarded 1v1 by Emmette Bryant for most of the game, and Russell's preoccupation with Wilt allowed him to get a little closer to the basket than he normally would, but 50 point double-doubles combined with an obscene level of clutchness, in the NBA Finals no less, are exceedingly rare indeed (Only Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor can claim such a feat).
2) 1965 WCF, Game 2, Bullets
52/5/9 (16/38, 20/21)
Lakers win 118-115
Even though West had poured in 50 points, and there were only 38 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, L.A were still trailing 114-115. With Baylor sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs after shredding his knee cap in game 1, the entire Lakers organisation now rested on Jerry West's shoulders. After working himself to within 15 feet of the Baltimore basket, West threw up a turnaround jumper which bounced off the rim, yet, Somehow, the 6"3 guard still managed to grab the offensive rebound and lay it in for the go ahead/game winner! I guess things like that can happen when the opposing team has Walt "Defense?" Bellamy as their anchor. In truth, Baltimore were the worst defensive team in the league, a talented offensive unit who liked to run n gun. They were a Nash-less version of the '05-'08 Pheonix Suns.
3) 1965 WCF, Game 1, Bullets
49/6/8 (15/35, 19/21)
Lakers win 121-115
West kicked off one of the great individual post season series in some style (46/6/7 on 45% for the series). Unstoppably relentless, he did exactly what it says on the tin. The first concrete sign that West had indeed overtaken Oscar as the leagues premier guard.
4) 1970 Finals, Game 4, Knicks
37/5/18 (13/26, 11/12)
Lakers win 121-115 in OT
This was the game after his famous 55 foot buzzer beater (
Essentially this was a 'must-win' game 4. Falling behind 1-3 without home court advantage would have been a death sentence. Matched up against one of the best defensive guards the league has seen, Walt Frazier, who a lot of people grotesquely claim should have won FMVP instead of Reed (I'm not sure either of them deserved it. I may have given it to West, considering Reed was next to worthless for 3 whole games) and playing 52 out of a possible 53 minutes with a jammed, bandaged left thumb, West chucked up 37 points & 18 assists, made every single one of his last 8 shots and scored 6 crucial points in the overtime to lead L.A to a series tying win. Baylor (2 free throws to tie the game with 23 seconds left in regulation and 9 points in OT) and the little known John Tresvant (3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists & 2 steals in the last 6 minutes) provided valuable support.
5) 1969 Finals, Game 7, Celtics
42/13/12 (14/29, 14/18)
Celtics win 106-108
The season long fued between Wilt Chamberlain and Butch van Breda Kolff (Caused mostly by Wilt) finally came to a head. After jarring his knee with around 5 minutes left in the final period, Wilt wanted out of the game, which Breda Kolff duly granted. But when Wilt asked to come back in a couple of minutes later Breda Kolff ignored him before finally declaring "We're playing better without you" (To be fair, they were). Whilst all this was going on, West, still playing with a sore left hamstring, was single handily leading a furious Laker charge. Seemingly every trip down the court he was swishing mid range jumper after mid range jumper or getting to the line and making free throw after free throw (5/7 FGs & 7/9 FTs in the 4th), until, finally, running out of steam with around 3 minutes left. The Celtics, of course, ran away with it from there. West deserved some help.
Never has a superstar been ****ed over quite so vehemently by his own team in an NBA Finals as Jerry West was in 1969. A complete and utter travesty that the Lakers didn't win. Blame Baylor, Wilt and Breda Kolff in that order. John Havlicek echoed his teammates sentiments after the game - "Just once, I'd like to see an individual like Jerry West be on a championship team."
6) 1965 Finals, Game 3, Celtics
43/12/7 (13/25, 17/20)
Lakers win 126-105
'65 Celtics: Arguably the greatest dynasty in the history of sports at the height of it's powers. In my opinion Bill Russell's greatest all round season - still dominating defensively, but also passing/facilitating as well as any center ever has from the mid post. He could still score when needed, too (18ppg on an absurd 70% shooting in the Finals. A FG% record that still stands). The sumpremely clutch Sam Jones was in the midst of his best ever season, Satch Sanders and K.C Jones provided the lock down perimiter defense, John Havlicek was still raw but had an almost inhuman non-stop motor, could play multiple positions and was also really good defensively, and Tommy Heinsohn provided invaluable muscle, intimidation and experience. This was a dominant, well oiled machine.
That's what West was up against in the effectively 'must win' game 3. Down 0-2, he could be forgiven for sucummbing to the vastly superior Boston Celtics by taking his foot off the gas (Especially after his teammates basically blew game 2 with West putting up a 45/5/5). Yet, he didn't, he willed himself to the line over and over again. Like Jordan in game 3 against the Pistons in 1990 or Kobe in game 3 against the Suns in '07; The great ones rise when their backs are against the wall.
7) 1964 WCF, Game 4, Hawks
39/6/4 (13/20, 13/15)
Lakers win 97-88
The Lakers - Hawks Conference Finals battles in the late 50s/early 60s were some of the most heated and competitive the NBA has ever seen. The rowdiness of the St Louis Hawk fans contributed heavily to the mutual disdain. Undoubtedly the worst fans in the league at the time, routinely throwing eggs, beers etc onto the court, and verbally abusing seemingly anyone and everyone in sight, including Hawk players :laugh:. Between '59 and '64, L.A and St Louis met in the post season every single year except one (In '62 the Hawks were hampered by injuries and a revolving door of coaches that included their superstar, Bob Pettit. Didn't make the playoffs). Of those 5 matchups, 4 of them went the distance to a do-or-die, winner-take-all elimination game. The consistent closeness of the games led to an inordinate opportunity for clutch heroics by both teams. Their 1961 series in particular surely has a strong case to be considered the "best" or "most exciting" series in NBA history. Bob Pettit would certainly agree.
Baylor's ailing knees had cost the Lakers the first 2 games (Baylor took a combined 54 shots but only made 18 of them. He did hit the game winner in game 3, though) so this was a do-or-die game 4 in a best of 5 series. Relatively speaking this was a grind out affair, a pace that I believe suited West much more than the break-neck speed most games were played at in that era. West could undoubtedly run, but he would very often get hurt or banged up doing so - he had a fearless, relentless will that he couldn't contain. Even in 1964, he had a phenomenal mid-range game. He could pick teams apart in the half court just as easily as he could on the break. He displayed that in this game.
8) 1965 WCF, Game 6, Bullets
42/8/8 (15/33, 12/14)
Lakers win 117-115
Wanting to make up for his poor showing in the last couple of minutes of game 4 (missed a bunch of shots late in a very close game), West slammed the rapidly widening door on the scrappy Bullets. After Dan Ohl and Walt Bellamy rallied Baltimore to within 6 points late in the 4th quarter, West made several key plays that iced the game and the series, including a huge momentum changing steal on Ohl as he was driving in for a layup on a fast break, 2 jumpers and 2 free throws in the final 3 minutes, and an assist to Gene Wiley.
9) 1963 Finals, Game 3, Celtics
42/8 (17/30, 8/10)
Lakers win 119-99
In what was effectively a 'must win' game 3 (L.A were down 0-2), West poured in 15 of his 42 points in the final quarter to help the Lakers overcome a 83-80 deficit at the start of the 4th. Baylor was right there with him, too (38 points, 13 in the 4th). West also had several blocks.
10) 1968 Finals, Game 4, Celtics
38/10/5 (13/21, 12/15)
Lakers win 118-105
Similar to the game above, another 'must win' game in the middle of a series. Breda Kolff got ejected in the 3rd after picking up his 28th(!) technical of the season and Russell missed 6 FTs in a row mid-way through the 4th quarter. Both probably contributed to the win :laugh:
Btw, who sprains their ankle in garbage time of a game in the middle of an NBA Finals series? Who does that? Who?? Jerry West, that's who! His left ankle, in a collision with Havlicek. Almost 45 years after the fact I'm shaking my ****ing head.
1962 Finals, Game 3, Celtics
36/4 (11/19, 14/16)
Lakers win 117-115
The famous steal (
The clutchest 3 seconds in playoff history?
1966 Finals, Game 5, Celtics
31/8/5 (11/24, 9/9)
Lakers win 121-117
1966 Finals, Game 6, Celtics
32/8/7 (11/23, 10/10)
lakers win 123-115
With just 35 seconds remaining in the absolute 'must win' game 5, and the score tied at 115, West nailed a go ahead/game winning corner jumper, and then made a pair of free throws to make sure of the win.
With the Lakers entire season once again on the line in game 6, West hit 3 vital shots near the end of a close, back and forth final quarter to give L.A the game winning lead.