WASHINGTON, D.C. — One of the state’s most famous and accomplished athletes is now the recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor.
WVU legend Jerry West was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday afternoon by President Donald Trump.
“My family didn’t have much but we’d have a clear view of the Appalachian Mountains,” West said. “I’d sit alone on our front porch and wonder ‘if I ever make to the top of that mountain, what will I see on the other side?’ Well I did make it to the other side and my dreams have come true.”
West, 81, was awarded the 1969 NBA Finals MVP and was also a NBA champion in 1972. He was a 14-time NBA All-Star and 10-time All-NBA First Team.
In his professional career, West finished with over 25,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists.
West retired as a basketball player after the 1974 season and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and College Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Chelyan native has also had success in running NBA teams as GM, president and special consultant. He is currently on the executive board of the Los Angeles Clippers and is also featured as the logo for the NBA.
West said on Thursday that it never ceased to amaze him the places someone can go in the world chasing a basketball.
“My chase began in Chelyan, West Virginia where I strung a wire basket with no net to the side of a bridge,” he said.
“If your shot didn’t go in the ball rolled down a long bank and you’d be chasing it forever. So you’d better make it.”
Gov. Jim Justice was in attendance for the ceremony.
Honored to have been at the White House today as @realdonaldtrump presented WV native Jerry West with the Presidential Medal of Freedom! Jerry is one of the greatest basketball players of all time — from the Mountaineers to the Lakers! Congrats Jerry, it is well-deserved. https://t.co/yI34nGae0i
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) September 5, 2019
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin tweeted out his congratulations on Thursday:
I’m incredibly proud to announce that Jerry West will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom today at The @WhiteHouse. Jerry is a great athlete, a great man & a great West Virginia native. Please join me in congratulating Jerry! pic.twitter.com/W5hPxFyrjq
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) September 5, 2019