Donald Trump to Give Lakers Icon Jerry West Presidential Medal of Freedom

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2019

NBA Hall of Fame and former player Jerry West speaks as he and Elgin Baylor talk with Ralph Lawler, an Hall of Fame honoree, at an event before an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump announced that NBA legend Jerry West will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"The Great Jerry West will be receiving our Nation's highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his outstanding career, both on and off the court. Happy Birthday Jerry!" Trump tweeted Saturday.

West, who turned 81 on Tuesday, is one of the most decorated players and executives in NBA history. He made 14 All-Star teams and received 12 All-NBA selections across 14 NBA seasons, winning the 1972 championship as a member of the Lakers. The NBA uses a silhouette of West as its logo.

He went on to become perhaps the greatest front-office executive in league history. He twice received the NBA Executive of the Year honor, and he has been a member of eight championship teams as part of front offices for the Lakers and Golden State Warriors.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavor."

Trump gave the honor to golf legend Tiger Woods earlier this year. He previously honored Babe Ruth posthumously, along with former NFL defensive tackle Alan Page and quarterback Roger Staubach.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama were the first two who began regularly honoring all-time sports greats with the Medal of Freedom. Before Bush, only nine sports figures had ever received the honor. Bush and Obama gave 20 Medals of Freedom to sports figures total during their presidencies.

West is the fifth under Trump.

Now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers front office, West has not issued a comment on his selection. Trump did not announce a date for the ceremony.

The president has had a contentious relationship with NBA players since taking office. The Golden State Warriors have declined to visit the White House during each of his first two years in office and met with Obama instead during their Washington, D.C., visit this year.

Trump's rhetoric and policies have drawn criticism from LeBron James, Stephen Curry and numerous other high-profile NBA players. To this point, it is unclear if West will accept the honor from Trump.