Why Deng left NBA riches for S. Sudan’s rough diamonds

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Former NBA star and South Sudan Basketball Association president Luol Deng speaking to this writer at Nyayo Gymnasium during last week’s Afrobasket pre-qualifiers. Photo/PD/PHILIP KAMAKYA

Jerry West, the NBA legend who followed up his championship playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers by becoming a title-winning team executive, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Donald Trump on Thursday.

“It never ceases to amaze me, the places you can go in this world chasing a basketball,” the 81-year-old West said at the Oval Office ceremony, where Trump praised the West Virginia native as “one extraordinary American.”

West won the NBA title as a player with the Lakers in 1972, and won Olympic gold with the United States at the 1960 Rome Games.

Known as “Mr Clutch,” West was an All-Star in all of his 14 seasons with the Lakers, helping the team reach the NBA Finals nine times.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 and it is his silhouette that’s the basis of the NBA’s dribbling player logo.

His post-playing career has been similarly outstanding.

As a Lakers executive, he signed such stars as Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to championship teams.

He also helped shape the Golden State Warriors into title contenders a task he is currently undertaking as a consultant with the Los Angeles Clippers.

As he accepted America’s highest civilian honor West was modest.

“I swear my name is going to look like a misprint on this list,” he said.

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