Los Angeles Clippers executive Jerry West finished his NBA playing career with one championship despite appearing in the NBA Finals nine times. He still thinks about those losses and how much they hurt. However, he has also realized that sharing his personal struggles is effective when he’s recruiting free agents.
During a recent podcast appearance, The Ringer’s Chris Vernon pointed out that because the Clippers have West, people shouldn’t count them out when it comes to attracting highly coveted players in free agency.
He mentioned West’s success in the past, such as recruiting Shaquille O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. During these free agent meetings, West reportedly had the same general pitch.
Vernon, who covered the Memphis Grizzlies when West was their general manager, said that the 79-year-old encourages players to make a change and discusses his regrets (via The Ringer):
“He goes in there and he tells them about his tortured existence. I’m not kidding you. This is exactly what he does. He tells them: ‘I didn’t [change teams] and I wish I had and it drives me crazy.’ Because he went to the Finals over and over and over again and he walked away with one. And he just couldn’t get over the jump and he kept losing and he kept losing and he kept losing. And he wishes he would have done something different in his career. And it haunts him every day of his life.”
West apparently tells potential suitors that this is their opportunity to avoid the mistake he made.
Even if the players weren’t necessarily thinking about that before, they leave the exchange with this in mind. After listening to West sit down with them and pour his heart out, they have to at least realize what’s at stake with their decision.
Chris Broussard reported the same thing about West’s recruiting pitch back in a 2016 article (via ESPN):
“West spoke to Durant from the perspective of an all-time great player who kept falling short of winning an NBA championship. Although West won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972, he lost in his first seven trips to the NBA Finals and finished 1-8 in the Finals overall. West, 78, told Durant those losses still eat at him to this day, according to sources. West also told Durant that playing alongside the Warriors’ star trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would make it much easier on him.”
West has told reporters that he would have left the Lakers if free agency had existed during his playing career.
Expect West and the Clippers to be able to schedule a meeting with LeBron James and other notable free agents during the upcoming offseason. While the Clippers are not considered favorites to sign James, they should still be included in the conversation.