Jerry West works in the Warriors’ front office, so of course he’s defended Kevin Durant’s decision to sign in Golden State. But West has a particularly unique perspective on the matter, as one of the all-time great players who only won one championship and stayed with a single team his whole career, but only because he didn’t have the opportunity in free agency to leave the way players do now..
In a new podcast interview with San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami (audio here), West says that if free agency had existed in his day the way it does now, he would have gone elsewhere. Here’s what he said (transcription via ProBasketballTalk):
“I remember years ago, if I had an opportunity to leave the Lakers I would have left, for one reason: because I did not like an owner that was not telling me the truth. It would have made no difference what they would have offered me, I would have left. It’s easy to say after the fact, but players have earned the right to go where they want to go.”
West is, of course, referring to Jack Kent Cooke, the previous owner of the Lakers before Dr. Jerry Buss bought the team in 1979. West didn’t use championships as his reason for wanting out of Los Angeles, but if the option had been available to him, he certainly would have taken that into account. It runs counter to the common narrative since Durant signed with the Warriors (and after LeBron James signed with Miami in 2010, and after every other high-profile free agent changing teams) that players of previous generations would never have left their old teams.
Jerry West is as iconic as it gets in NBA lore (he’s the damn logo), and he says he would have.