President Trump awarded basketball legend Jerry West the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on Thursday, continuing a run by Trump of recognizing American sports greats.
Trump said West “richly deserved” the medal, citing the West Virginia native's years as a decorated player, executive, and supporter of the nation’s war veterans.
Former NBA basketball player and general manager Jerry West received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the Oval Office on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The 81-year-old West was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980 six years after he retired from the NBA following a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
When West retired in 1974, he was the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 25,192 points in 932 games, behind only Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
President Trump shaking hands with Jerry West at the White House. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
On Thursday, West noted his humble beginnings and where sports has taken him, saying, “it never ceases to amaze me the places you can go in this world chasing a basketball.”
West won just one title with the Lakers as a player, in 1972. However, he burnished his resume as a scout and executive by winning six titles with the Lakers and two more with the Golden State Warriors. He is currently a member of the Los Angeles Clippers executive board.
West is the eighth basketball figure to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, joining Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, John Wooden, Pat Summitt, Dean Smith and Bob Cousy, who received the medal from Trump last month at age 91.
Golfer Tiger Woods received the same honor earlier this year after his victory at The Masters tournament.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.