- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers will unveil a statue honoring Hall of Fame guard Jerry West during this season's NBA All-Star weekend, multiple sources confirmed to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Los Angeles is the host city for All-Star weekend, running from Feb. 18-20.
West retired as the Lakers all-time leading scorer before Kobe Bryant eclipsed his point total of 25,192 points during the 2009-10 season. Known as "Mr. Clutch" during his playing days, West won a championship with the Lakers in 1972 and holds the distinction of being the only player in league history to be named NBA Finals MVP while playing on the losing team (1969). West was a 14-time NBA All-Star and was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.
West transitioned from Lakers backcourt to the front office and worked for the team as the head coach and a scout before being named general manager prior to the 1982-83 season. With West as the GM, the Lakers went on to win seven championships and he was named NBA Executive of the Year in 1995.
Kobe Bryant, whose rights Jerry West acquired as a 17-year old out of high school through a 1995 draft-day trade, felt the honor was deserved and overdue.
"It's about time," Bryant said. "His contributions to this organization are phenomenal. If you have to try to decide on which statue you want to put up there, him as a player or as an exec, that goes to show what he's done for this organization."
The statue will be the fifth to be erected at Staples Center and the third that is Lakers-related, following Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Oscar De La Hoya and broadcaster Chick Hearn.
Johnson's statue was dedicated during the last NBA All-Star Game to be played in L.A., in 2004.
Told that Johnson recently stated Bryant should one day receive those honors, the Lakers guard initially reacted with self-deprecation.
"Another place where birds can [relieve themselves] on," joked Bryant.
He then quickly expressed sincere thoughts about what being captured in bronze would mean.
"Obviously, it would be a great honor," Bryant said. "To say the least. To say the least. But I've still got a couple more years to go."
Lakers executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss alluded to the statue in her new book, "Laker Girl," writing that it was her "dream" to commission another statue in time for the 2011 All-Star Game.
"Who is the next Laker deserving of the honor?" Buss writes. "Some would say Jerry
West. Others would favor Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. It's a tough choice."
The choice was Mr. Clutch.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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