David West retires from the NBA an All-Star, champion and unquestioned leader

Two-time All-Star David West, whose career-long pursuit of a championship led him to back-to-back NBA titles as a veteran leader on the Golden State Warriors, has retired a day after his 38th birthday.

West announced his retirement on Twitter:

“We are but a collection of our experiences,” he wrote. “I have been fortunate enough to live out my childhood dream of playing in the NBA. After 15 seasons I have decided to retire from the game of basketball. I am humbled and thankful for the support of my family, friends, coaches, teammates, organizations and fans throughout this experience. To anyone who has ever cheered me on, been in my corner, prayed or simply said a nice word on my behalf, I am grateful. Belief in yourself is non-negotiable.”

West averaged 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 15 seasons for the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Hornets, who selected him with the 18th pick in the 2003 draft.

David West was a member of the Golden State Warriors for their last two championship runs. (Getty Images)
David West was a member of the Golden State Warriors for their last two championship runs. (Getty Images)

David West’s career path was one to glory

A double-double machine at Xavier, where he captured college player of the year honors as a senior, West slipped in the draft due to his age (23 years old) and size (a 6-foot-9 old-school power forward). But after two seasons coming off the bench in New Orleans, he began producing the same numbers in the NBA. West averaged 19.2 points and eight rebounds over his final six seasons for the Hornets, earning a pair of trips to the All-Star Game and three playoff appearances alongside Chris Paul.

Having earned a reputation as one of the league’s toughest players, West was highly coveted when he hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in 2011, ultimately picking the Pacers over the perennially contending Boston Celtics. West led the upstart Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances in 2013 and 2014, averaging 14 points and seven boards over four seasons in Indiana.

By then one of the NBA’s most respected veterans, West famously declined a $12.6 million player option with the Pacers in favor of joining the Spurs on a veteran minimum contract in pursuit of a title in 2015. His 67-win San Antonio team lost in the second round that season, and West then left to join Kevin Durant on the 73-win Warriors that had just blown a 3-1 Finals lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A mainstay in Golden State’s rotation, the aging West averaged 5.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and a pair of assists off the bench over the past two seasons. His brand of old-school basketball wasn’t always a perfect fit for the pace-and-space Warriors, but his real value for the back-to-back champs was the toughness and veteran leadership he brought to shepherd Draymond Green and other young stars.

The signings of DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko this summer left little room for West in an increasingly crowded big-man rotation, so the writing was on the wall for this announcement early last month. Following this year’s title victory, West also made vague reference to internal turmoil on the Warriors throughout last season, a claim Golden State staffers have since suggested was merely a media troll — one final piece of evidence that West was outthinking us all from the beginning.

West is more than just a basketball player

Long before San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting racial inequality during the national anthem, West was silently doing the same — and more, standing just behind his teammates for “The Star Spangled Banner” in a personal reflection on education, healthcare, police brutality, infant mortality and other civic issues that black people face daily in America.

“I can’t start talking about civility and being a citizen if m—–f—— don’t even think I’m a human being,” West told The Undefeated when someone finally asked him in October 2016. “How can you talk about progress and how humans interrelate with one another when you don’t even recognize our humanity? We got to somehow get that straight first so we’re on the same playing field. And that’s how I feel.”

A childhood spent seeing how these very issues impacted African-Americans in his New Jersey and North Carolina communities has led him to a lifelong education in black history as he attempts to trace the root of these concerns. This has informed his thoughtful stances on police shootings, Donald Trump and the president’s immigration policy. West notably quotedThe History of the Indies” from 1561 in response to a Washington Post report quoting Trump as saying in reference to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, “Why are we having all those people from shithole countries here?

For this reason and more, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has long praised West for his insight beyond basketball, once suggesting that of all the players he’s worked alongside in a lifetime in the NBA, West might make the best president, although he might be too smart to pursue that life in retirement.

As he was on the court, so too was West off of it — under-appreciated.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!