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Lakers legend and hall of famer Jerry West dies at 86

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

Hall of Fame basketball player Jerry West died yesterday at 86 years old. He was a point guard in the 1960s and '70s for the Minneapolis and later Los Angeles Lakers.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Even if you weren't around when Jerry West played, you've likely seen him - even if you didn't know it - because his silhouette, dribbling a basketball while turning, is the official logo of the NBA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALAN SIEGEL: So in 1969, I got a call from the Licensing Corporation of America. And they said that the NBA needed a new logo.

SCHMITZ: That's Alan Siegel, a branding consultant for the design firm Siegel+Gale. He's 85 years old, and he's speaking here in a company video about the logo's history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIEGEL: I called my friend Dick Schaap, then the managing editor of Sport magazine, and I said, can I look through your portfolio of photographs? I need some inspiration to design this logo.

INSKEEP: Siegel looked at a lot of photos, and a picture of Jerry West weaving his way down the basketball court caught his eye.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIEGEL: It was very vertical. There was a nice sway to it. So Bob Gale and I designed that logo in maybe an hour.

SCHMITZ: For decades, the NBA would not acknowledge that the image in the logo is Jerry West.

INSKEEP: What?

SCHMITZ: But West always knew it was him. Here he is last year on a podcast with NBA star Paul George.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "PODCAST P WITH PAUL GEORGE")

JERRY WEST: I don't like publicity to me. You wish that no one knew who it was. Here's what my response is. That's me. I'm flattered. That's always my response. I never talk about - but I'm flattered.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about all the modern debates about name, image and likeness of athletes. Well, this is a silhouette - name, image, likeness, silhouette. West was never paid for being the logo, which was created decades before players had these licensing deals.

SCHMITZ: Meanwhile, the NBA logo became the prototype for dozens of other sports. Here again is designer Alan Siegel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SIEGEL: So whether it's squash, tennis, soccer, as you move around the world, you see that virtually all sports identities are derivative from that design.

INSKEEP: Whether he liked it or not, Jerry West was the original. And I guess we'll just mention, his Lakers are not in the NBA Finals, but the Celtics are. They're now up three games to nothing against Dallas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADI OASIS SONG, "GET IT GOT IT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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