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Jerry West and James Worthy chime in on which Lakers great should get a statue next

There Jerry West stood at Star Plaza outside Staples Center, feeling nearly embarrassed that a statue would be unveiled in his honor during the NBA's All-Star weekend.

He lamented that his 14-year career with the Lakers, from 1960 to 1974, featured more frustrating moments (losing to Boston six times in the NBA Finals) than triumphs (the 1972 NBA title, the 1969 Finals MVP). He found it puzzling that he has earned a statue outside Staples Center considering that he never played in the arena. And he hoped that he, Magic Johnson and Chick Hearn will not be the only Lakers honored for their contributions with statues.

"I don't really embrace stuff like that, to be honest with you," West said recently outside Staples Center. "I would love to have a bunch of the players I played with up there with me if that's going to be honored. That doesn't define who I am. Whoever decided to do this, I'm extremely grateful and I don't want to feel like I don't care. But it's a lot more about teams than individuals."

Plenty of people within the Lakers organization disagree with West's opinion. Guard Kobe Bryant, whose draft rights West acquired in 1996 by trading Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets, said "it's about time" West earned a statue. Former Lakers forward James Worthy added, "With Jerry, they're already a little late with his." And Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss said, "Can you think of anybody that deserves a statue more than him?"

West earned the name "Mr. Clutch" during his playing career, led the Lakers to the NBA championship in 1972, was a 14-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection, won the 1969 Finals MVP award and retired as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer with 25,192 points. Bryant eclipsed that mark last season.

Even if West didn't feel comfortable talking about his statue, he joined the discussion about which Lakers great should get the next statue. Below are West's candidates.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: He seems to be the overriding favorite for the next one to get a statue. Buss shared in her book, "Laker Girl," that she felt conflicted about whether the statue unveiled during the 2011 NBA All-Star game at Staples Center should feature West or Abdul-Jabbar, who won five of his NBA championships with the Lakers and remains the NBA's all-time leading scorer (38,387). After writing in her book that "it's a touch choice," Buss said later in an interview that Abdul-Jabbar "would be the natural fit." The Times' Bill Plaschke wrote last month that, based on conversations with members of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live, "it seems apparent" that Abdul-Jabbar and Kings player Luc Robitaille will be the next players to have statues outside Staples Center. And should this come to fruition, Worthy already has envisioned what the statue will look like: "A sky hook is intriguing enough."

Elgin Baylor: West argued that Baylor is "one of the great players who never gets enough credit." It is surprising considering Baylor ranks among the all-time franchise leaders in numerous categories, including rebounds (first, 11,463), points (third, 23,149) and assists (seventh, 3,650). He averaged over 30 points and 14 rebounds in three seasons during his career and he led the Lakers in rebounding for a team-record seven consecutive seasons (1958-65). But things have remained thorny between him and the NBA after he filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in February 2009 against the Clippers, team owner Donald Sterling and the league alleging that he was underpaid during his tenure with the team and then fired because of his age and race. As far as his tenure with the Lakers, the resume as an 11-time NBA All-Star and 10-time member of the All-NBA first team is impressive even if he never won a championship. Summed up Roland Lazenby, who recently penned a biography of West: "[Baylor] taught Jerry so much just in the way he approached the game."

Shaquille O'Neal: If the Lakers were to seriously consider this, it would certainly be met with controversy. No one can discount how instrumental he proved in the Lakers' three-peat from 1999 to 2001, and the on-court duo of Shaq and Bryant appeared nearly unstoppable. But O'Neal's legacy with the Lakers seems to focus on the aftermath of his trade to the Miami Heat, including rubbing it in after winning a title with Miami in 2006; releasing a distasteful rap song (if you can call it that) targeting Bryant after the Lakers lost the 2008 Finals; and suggesting at one point that Coach Phil Jackson intentionally tried to get Shaq and Kobe to butt heads. Shaq and Kobe have been cordial for years now, but that doesn't mean Lakers fans are as forgiving.

Surely, Bryant will have a statue at some point, an issue Johnson raised after the Lakers won the 2010 NBA Finals, but his contract lasts until the 2013-2014 season. Given how much of gap there has been between the unveiling of Johnson's statue (2004) and West's (2011), the Lakers would go through plenty of other candidates, including Abdul-Jabbar and Bryant, before having to even consider Shaq.

-- Mark Medina
twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (43)

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West, did you say Shaq? Seriously?

West was the Real Deal.

Yeah, not so sure about the statue for Shaq - maybe they should name a sandwich after him at the Lexus Club on Suite Level A at Staples...

West's constant humility, I realize for the first time, in a weird subliminal way, has shaped my own life a little (not that I have the same highs to be humble about by any stretch).

Hearing him talk here, I recall ALWAYS hearing him talk while growing up without realizing it, after games, in the paper, then later as GM, the same self-effacing words, the constant need to strive for perfection while denigrating his own accomplishments. May not have been as big an influence as my parents, or teachers or friends, but it's weird how much of that suffused my own psyche without knowing. Huh, who woulda thunk?

Of course seeing his yellow Daytona Ferrari in his driveway when swooping around that curve on Sunset may have also influenced my later need for Ferrari's of my own as well. Wow, Jerry had a greater effect on my life then I ever knew!

On the contrary fans loved Shaq more than many players that Lakers had, and Lakers fans are not only located in LA, they are all over the world. So please let them decide themselves and don't try to brainwash! I think he definitely deserves the statue more than many players that you think.

People don't care what is going behind the closed door they enjoy basketball by watching the greatest of them at the court.

Considering that Staples Center opened in 1999 and that the Lakers immediately won 3 consecutive titles with Shaq as the MVP of the NBA Finals each time, you might even call Staples Center "The House That Shaq Built." I know how many Lakers fans feel about The Big Traitor now, but think about how you felt about him back then when Staples Center was born. I actually had this discussion while admiring the statues in front of Staples Center this past Monday before the Roger Waters concert. Again, I am not giving my opinion on this one way or the other, I'm just offering a rational reason why it might make sense.

Next in line has to be Kareem...Essential piece of showtime era..The Skyhook...Alltime points leader...what else is there more to state...

Shaq's statue at Staples?Hmmm.

I can see his jersey in the rafters. I'm not so sure about a statue.

Maybe someday Shaq. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwNuQulK6N0&feature=related

Next Statue? It REALLY oughta be Kareem in full sky hook pose.

Gotta be Kareem, but I wonder if they made more tableau's: the 72 Lakers in half-court O; the Showtime Lakers with Magic running the point; the the Kobe/Shaq team with Kobe throwing the lob to Shaq? That'd be cool.

Shaquille O'Neal, at his best, was literally unstoppable and he was at his best while wearing a Laker uniform. He will go into the hall of fame as a Laker and only Laker fans will be the ones holding their noses. Sad.

Hey Justa....do you still need extra work/shifts? I can get you banquet work at one of several resturants in L.A. ..they are 1. The Odyssey 2. the Universal Hilton, 3. Shanghai Red's and 4. the Castaway. I'll need to get you connected with the banquet manager, but there is seasonal work available right now if you need it. I hear the base pay is low, the tips are high. Just let me know....


These are the big resturants you see on the tops of hills around the valley and LA. Nice places.


Wes

I have no opinion as to whether Shaq should get a statue or not, but he's def after Kareem or Elgin. There were too many great Laker players. Basically the Lakers need their own HOF. Stern should get on that.

Enuff thinking though, I like to just Ease Back on Sunday Mornings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqvcR0NFHgc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5y0cEHIjNc

Mark G - just love Grant Green's tone and playing. Great Sunday mornin' stuff. I'm now feelin' very mellow.

63,

I go back and forth between him and Wes, but he's one of my favorite guitar players. His playing is the definition of in-the-pocket.

Shaq deserves to receive the alcholades because he was one of the main figure in the triangle offence during those first lakers 3 peat years.People tend to forget that he knew what it took to reach in an Nba finals.Remember himself and lakers present assistant Shaw,they were both members of the Orlando Magic that reach the 1995 Nba finals only to be beaten by his future coach Phil Jackson.Kobe didnt know back then what it took to reach to that pinnacle and lost.But Shaw and Shaq knew what it took because they were members of a winning team who almost made it to the greatest heights of Nba success.So Shaq deserved to be mention,he has four rings and he want another one,thats why he went to that historical great team-Celtics.I am a laker fan and i wouldnt blame him,he deserves it.

Mark G - they're both so good. Of course, then I had to pull out the Charlie Christian as well... so now my Sunday is complete.

Shaq is certainly headed for the hall of fame,another laker great,let them keep comming.

What struck me the most about Jerry West is his incredible INTEGRITY!! I don't think he is even trying to be humble. It seems to me he just tells exactly how feels with honesty. You can never blame someone who is honest. You can disagree or not like what he said, but you always respect his opinion because he is telling his truth,

LakerPeace - to me that's why Jerry's greatness can't be counted only in Rings. I still think he's the finest individual post-season player ever. His game (except, oddly in '72) rose exponentially when the games got bigger (on both sides of the ball). His pathos for coming up just short was heartbreaking, but no one, fans or opposing players, ever blamed him (I blame the sucky Lakers coaching of the '60's). His will and desire were always on showcase, and he NEVER took a day off or a shortcut.

63,

Charlie is also the sheet.

BTW, nice comments both by you an LakerPeace about Mr. Clutch. He was also my hero growing up. Hard for me to post about him without sounding maudlin, so I'll leave it at that.

63

All right maybe one more. I hadn't read your latest post, but I totally agree. The fact that he only won 1 Ring, and had to endure all that heartbreak, just makes him more heroic. His story is mythic.

Mark G - I remember reading the Mr. Clutch book over and over as a kid. It was heartbreaking... then they had an updated version with an extra chapter if I recall correctly, still heartbreaking. You got it right: mythic.

"But they chose honor. They chose myth . . ."

~ Old Dude from Ronin.

I don't even have Shaq on my list for enshrinement....

Elgin, Wilt, Kareem, Worthy, Wilkes, Bryon Scott,

I'd rather see one of Michael Cooper before the big ego gets one....

Shaq always made it seem like the lakers were a part of him, rather than he part of the Lakers....

Enshrine Phil before Shaq.....

Rambis before shaq mama....

Fisher has 5 laker rings...you could put his stratue at the ticket booth, hitting a trey

let the celts do shaq....no green in our arena

Shaq doesn't deserve a statue!!!

I think a player like Elgin Baylor that even didn't win a ring deserves more a statue than Shaq.

Even Wilt Chamberlain deserves a statue better than Shaq. And he played in 3 diferent teams. He lead the Lakers to the 1st title in Los Angeles and that title was very important. In 5 years in the Lakers he played 4 NBA finals.

This is not just about winning , it's about attitude too.

Mr. Clutch was the first book I remember reading.
My first Lakers game was March of 71 for Jerry West nite.
I still can't bring myself to acknowledge any Laker who was greater.
Jordan over West? Okay. Kobe too? Not sure.
63 footer speaks the truth re Mr West.

Lone star laker fan - first game was Jerry West Night? How cool is that? Man! Jerry's basketball incarnate to me (player AND management). If one were to use an electron microscope to peer into his DNA, the nucleotides would spell out NBA.

Jerry's DNA is NBA indeed. If only more players were built like him, the league would continue to prosper. David Stearn owes this man a great deal of gratitude and should be the first one to congratulate him during the unveiling.

No debate. It's Mike Smrek.

A Shaq statue outside of Staples. No Fricken way!!! I think they should name a urinal in each bathroom of Staples after him. This guy has proven over and over again that he has no class and is never afraid to badmouth the Lakers.

Yes, he was a dominant player for three years in a row, but remember what happened after that? Because of his glutoness, self serving attitute, he started coming into each succesive season fatter and fatter. He gave up on himself and his team. He became "Fat and Happy Shaq." Then, he and Kobe had their private and public fueds, almost leaving us with neither star player. On his way out of town, he ripped just about everyone in the organization who didn't have the last name of West. I can go on and on, but I think you remember the rest.

Elgin Baylor.

Like I've said we need a multi-acre Lakers park/outdoor museum filled with statues of Lakers Greats: George Mikan, Gail Goodrich, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Michael Cooper... the list goes on.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

Shaq is so "snaq," that i'd take Ratliff over him!! Lets face it: the "big dumb-dumb" ruined a true legacy for everyone in L.A.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g

..uhh and shaq joined the CELTICS.


without a doubt elgin baylor. he was dr. j before there was dr. j. with no tv's around when elg and jerry were playing, i used to keep score of the lakers games with "chickie baby" calling the play-by-play. it was cruel and criminal that baylor knees gave out 9 games into that magical 71-72 season, when the Lakers finally won it' s first nba title in Los Angeles.......btw, i hope elgin wins his suit against that "bozo" donald sterling!

I am one of the lucky ones to have seen Baylor play (rookie season, even), and I would love having he and Jerry next to each other outside Staples at some point!

NuggetsCountry - Wow! Rookie season? You are lucky and blessed!

Shaq is already off my list because he is probably going to finish his career in a GREEN Celtic uniform trying to win his last title with beating the Lakers if they meet again! Knowing about the legendary rivalry of the Lakers-Celtics that goes back 50+ years, what Shaq did is blasphemous. You would never have seen Bill Russell sign with the Lakers, no matter if the contract was big or if the Lakers were the best chance to win it all at the time. Russell bleeds Celtic green, can you say Shaq bleeds Purple and Gold? No, I see Shaq bleeding MDE (Most Dominant Ever) blood.....

You see Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Rambis, Byron Scott, West, Mychal Thompson, AC Green etc., even Norm Nixon today still working in or around Lakerland (showing up at the games), and/or speaking of the Lakers with respect (even if some of them work or live elsewhere now). That's what "once a Laker, always a Laker" is all about. Shaq is all about Shaq--ask the Suns, ask the Heat about his loyalty and respect to their teams. He bad-mouthed nearly every team, including the Lakers when he left. He recently said that the Celtics is the "best team he has ever been on". He once said he "built" the Staples Center with the revenue he brought to the Lakers organization; and once he yelled at Jerry Buss sitting in the stands saying "Pay Me!" during an exhibition game in Hawaii, in front of the media and fans. Disrespecting the owner who brought the most championships (10 of the 16 total) to the franchise? Signing with the Celtics? That's two strikes already against my vote for him having a statue. I would pick Jerry West, Kareem, and Kobe in that order before I even think about picking Shaq, even if he was the main guy during the 3peat. It was how he acted and what he said about the Lakers after he left, that ran him off my list.

Magic, Kareem and Kobe won the most (5) championships with the Lakers, and Jerry West added 8 more championships to his only one as a player being the Lakers' GM, masterminding two separate dynasties in the 80s and the Kobe/Shaq era. I do agree that Shaq deserves his jersey to be retired and hung at Staples, but a statue? Nope.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Shaquille-O-Neal-done-in-2010-?urn=nba-107277

I totally agree with all of you that says no statue for Shaq at Staples. Let him build a statue in front of his own house because it is all about him no matter where he is. Only the franchise players that was great should have a statue. Kareem should be next and then Kobe. Worthy would look good up there also because he was a heck of a player.

Shaq, no way. I bet he argues with his own self at times. One day, he will become humble. Something in life will make him humble.

I grew up watching Jerry West. Wow...he was and still is awesome.

I THINK KOBE WELL DESERVES A STATUE HE IS ONE THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME AS A LAKER I MEAN KAREEM DOES TO AND WILT BUT KOBE HAS BEEN A LAKER FOR LIFE AND PROBABLY WILL BE A LAKER FOR HIS WHOLE CAREER


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