Like most NBA players, West was a standout in high school and at college - he attended West Virginia University - before embarking on a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also played for the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team in Rome.
In his career, West scored 25,192 points (third all time in NBA history), averaged 27.0 points per game (fourth), made 7,160 free throws (second) and 6,238 assists (fifth).
West was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team four times, to the All-NBA First Team 10 times, to the All-Star team 14 times, and 1980 he was named to the NBA's 35th Anniversary All-Time Team.
A clutch shooter, West averaged 29.1 points per game in 153 playoff games, including 40.6 in 11 playoff games in 1965, and sunk one of the most famous shots in NBA history: a 60-footer with no time remaining to send a 1970 championship game into overtime. Despite this, West's only NBA championship was won in 1972. He retired two years later, then became a coach who carried the Lakers into the playoffs in his three seasons 1976-1979, after which he was hired as an executive for the club in various positions. The Lakers won six titles with him in the front office.
In 2002 he was hired as President of Basketball Operations by the Memphis Grizzlies.