West, 81, spent all 14 seasons he played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers. The current NBA logo was modeled after West, something Trump mentioned when he welcomed him to the Oval Office.
Trump touted his electoral win in West Virginia, where West is from, and cheered West’s records playing basketball in college at West Virginia University and his accomplishments on the U.S. Olympic team, as well as his professional career with the Lakers.
“He made plays that will be remembered forever,” Trump said, noting that West earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch.”
Trump also recognized West for contributing “millions of dollars” to charities in Los Angeles, as well as his contributions to West Virginia and support for American veterans.
“This is so richly deserved,” Trump said just before West was given the award.
West has accumulated a number of honors for his career in basketball, including being named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history roughly two decades ago.
West retired from the NBA in 1974, trading in his uniform for other roles in the league. He joined the Lakers as the coach two years after his retirement, and went on to serve as the team’s general manager.
He later took various roles at other teams, including presiding over basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies and most recently working as a consultant for the Los Angeles Clippers.
West thanked Trump on Thursday, reflecting on his career and his childhood in West Virginia as well as his adult life living in Los Angeles.
“It never ceases to amaze me the places you can go in this world by chasing a bouncing ball,” West said. “I was a dreamer, my family didn’t have much.”
West said he had the pleasure of having the opportunity to work for four basketball franchises during his career on and off the court.
“I’ve had many great coaches and teammates I will never forget,” West said. “As an executive, I have been just as fortunate.”
Trump has awarded the Medal of dom to a number of former sports stars, many of them basketball players. The president recognized former NBA legend and Boston Celtics veteran Bob Cousy at a ceremony two weeks ago. Trump also awarded golfer Tiger Woods the Medal of dom in May.
Several members of West’s family were present for the ceremony Thursday afternoon, including his wife, sons and grandchildren. West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was present for the ceremony, and had attended Cousy’s in August.