Today is Day 44 of the Omer. Gevurah sheb’malchut. Nobility that leads to power.
In 1960, after helping to lead the US Olympic team to a gold medal, Jerry West entered the NBA as the 2nd overall draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. In his first year, West became an All-Star, an honor he earned every year of his 14 year career.
West was an all-around talent, capable of impacting the game in multiple ways. Standing only 6’2” he averaged over 7 rebounds/game during his first three years. In 1971-72, he led the league in assists at 9.7/game. Five times, he was named to the All-Defensive team (which wasn’t instituted until his 9th year in the league). But more than anything else, Jerry West could score. He holds the highest scoring average in a playoff series at 46.3 points/game and led the league in scoring at 31.2 points/game in 1969-70. For his career, he averaged 27.0 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.8 rebounds/game.
During the week of malchut, or kingship, we are focussed on players who won championships, which West did in 1972. But despite his greatness and clutch shooting, West was 1-8 in the NBA Finals. He owns the dubious distinction of winning both the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player and Finals MVP despite being on the losing side.
However, malchut is not just about winning. In Kabbalah for Dummies, Arthur Kurzweil, quotes one of his teachers to describe malchut as, “the realization of all human potential. It’s a summation of all the sefirot that appears above it, and the word ‘kingdom’ certainly refers to the ultimate and final gathering of all resources.”
Jerry West was someone who realized all his potential, first as a basketball player and then as an executive. In 1982, he became General Manager (GM) of the Los Angeles Lakers and helped guide them to four NBA Championships between 1982-88. In 1996, he established another Lakers dynasty by luring Shaquille O’Neal to LA as a free agent and drafting Kobe Bryant, setting the team up to win three more NBA championships between 2000-02.
By 2011, his reputation as one of the best basketball executives in league history earned him a minority stake in the Golden State Warriors, as well as a multi-million dollar salary to be a consultant. During his time with the team, the Warriors won two championships and established a dynasty. Most recently, he joined the LA Clippers and although they have yet to win a championship, they laid the foundation last offseason by luring away NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George.
On Day 44, gevurah sheb’malchut, Jerry West embodies the power (gevurah) that comes from realizing one’s potential as a player and leveraging that into becoming one of the most powerful and respected basketball executives of all time.