Jerry West is a firm believer in NBA free agency. The Hall of Famer who works for the Golden State Warriors in an advisory role believes that Kevin Durant had the right to go wherever he wanted in free agency and did not appreciate commissioner Adam Silver’s comments on the matter, he said in an appearance on “The TK Show” with the Mercury News‘ Tim Kawakami. In that same interview, West also said that he would have left the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, if he had the option. It is no secret that he disliked owner Jack Kent Cooke.
“I remember years ago, if I had had an opportunity to leave the Lakers, I would have left for one reason: because I did not like an owner that was not telling me the truth,” West said. “And it would have made no difference what they would have offered me, I would have left. And it’s easy to say after the fact, but players have earned the right to go where they want to go.”
In 1964, West was a part of the near-boycott of the All-Star Game, where the players threatened to sit out of the event the first time it was televised live. They wanted the players’ union to be taken seriously, and the owners had been resistant to their demands. It wasn’t until 1976 that the NBA actually had a limited form of free agency, and unrestricted free agency was only introduced in 1988. West has been involved in the league as a player, coach and executive since 1960, so he knows all about the many battles the union has fought to get to where it is today.
When Durant signed with the Warriors, there were no shortage of opinions about what the move said about him and what it meant for the league. That discussion sometimes missed the point that this was really just a workplace issue: a 27-year-old made a decision about where he wanted to work. Players like West, who fought for players’ rights decades ago, paved the way for players like Durant to have more control over their careers. If they had the same options as today’s players do, the history of the league would be completely different.
Source: CBS Sports / Jerry West says he would have left the Lakers in free agency if he could