President Donald Trump honored former National Basketball Association (NBA) Los Angeles Lakers’ Jerry West with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Celebrating his achievements, the president decorated the basketball legend with the nation’s highest civilian honor on Thursday.
After joking that the fact that West comes from West Virginia — a state Trump won in the 2016 election — and it “probably helped you getting this award today,” the president noted West’s time in basketball from the age of 6 and on.
West garnered his “44” numbers while playing for the West Virginia Mountaineers. He then went on to become a two-time All-American, played for the U.S. Olympic Team, and later earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch” in 1962 playing for the Lakers. Additionally, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, among other achievements on and off the court.
“But perhaps the greatest commemoration of his legacy was the legendary playing career — is the NBA Logo,” Trump said. “Today, the silhouette of Jerry West is displayed on every uniform, court, and basketball in the league.”
This afternoon in the Oval Office, President @realDonaldTrump will award the Medal of Freedom to Jerry West, whose excellence and determination have made him a true sports icon! 🏀 pic.twitter.com/dPKQOF6X9Y
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 5, 2019
“Jerry works harder than just about anybody I can imagine, helping our nation’s veterans,” the president said. “Jerry West is one extraordinary American.”
As the former NBA player received with the medal, Trump said it was “so richly deserved.”
"Jerry West is one extraordinary American … this is so richly deserved."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 5, 2019
“You know, it never ceases to amaze me the places you can go in this world chasing a bouncing ball,” West said during the ceremony, describing his life playing basketball throughout his childhood to adulthood,
“[…] I’ve experienced a country at war, a country at peace, a time when we huddled around a radio with terrible reception to hear President Roosevelt’s weekly addresses to a time when we read on our cell phone President Trump’s instantaneous tweets. You’re pretty good at that, by the way.”
"Jerry Alan West is one of the greatest basketball players and sports executives of all time."
— ABC News (@ABC) September 5, 2019
West isn’t the first NBA legend to be decorated with the Medal of Freedom by Trump, as former NBA player Bob Cousy, also known as “Mr. Basketball,” was awarded the medal on August 22. The president called Cousy a “beloved basketball legend and a true American original,” as IJR previously reported.