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Category: Jerry West

Why Jerry West wanted to share his struggle with depression [Video]

Jerry West is one of the most beloved figures in Lakers history.

A prolific scorer who embodied the ethos of hard work, his silhouette became the NBA's logo.

A general manager who built two of the league's most celebrated dynasties, a replica of his body became immortalized in bronze outside of Staples Center.

He has experienced immense success --- but has struggled deeply with enjoying its fruits.

"The high opinion others may have of Jerry West, whoever they may think he is, has never been shared by me," West wrote in his autobiography, "West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life."

At a book-signing at ESPN Zone in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday evening, West discussed his lifelong struggles with depression and why he decided to reveal them to the public.

"I've led a very complex life and I just thought after all of these years of trying to mask some of my problems, that it would be important to people out there -- and I've gotten a lot of cards, a lot of letters, a lot of telephone calls from some pretty prominent people thanking me for writing this book," West said.

"I had hoped it would be kind of cleansing for me to go back in time and think about some of the things that I've seen in my life that were less than desirable -- but probably propelled me to have some kind of a life I didn't dream possible."

In the book, West described his household in West Virginia as cold and lacking in affection. His father was abusive and his older brother, David, whom he loved dearly, died in the Korean War at age 22.

"David's death, I see now, truly resulted in the basketball court's becoming my sanctuary and my refuge, the place where I felt most alive, where I was most in control," West wrote.

Throughout West's illustrious career, he grappled with residual resentment from his childhood and a sometimes detrimental drive for perfection.

Even though he led the Lakers to a championship in 1972 he has never been able to get over the team's losses to the Boston Celtics and, to this day, has a hard time visiting the city.

West is a kind man who never thought he was above anyone -- for example, as an executive he forged friendships with the people who did menial labor in his office. But his overflowing humility worked against him at times.

When he won the Finals MVP award in 1969, he was upset. He didn't think he deserved it.

In the book, Magic Johnson said he was glad that West was writing an autobiography because he hoped that it would prove to be a form of therapy for him.

When asked if the writing process was indeed cathartic, West said, "Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

"I think reliving some of the things I saw in my life, talking about some of them, have not been therapeutic, but some other times I'm glad I did it."


A review of "West by West"

Greatest sports figures in L.A. history: Jerry West

Jerry West on autobiography: "It was painful to write"

-- Melissa Rohlin

Greatest sports figures in L.A. history No. 6: Jerry West

Continuing our countdown of the 20 greatest figures in L.A. sports history, as chosen in voting by our online readers, with No. 6, Jerry West.

No. 6 Jerry West (41 first-place votes, 3,961 points)

FabforumFor all the immortal players, great coaches and colorful owners the Lakers have had, no man has exerted more influence over the franchise from more positions — player, coach, executive — over a longer period of time than Jerry West.

His career as a player was one of such sustained and ubiquitous brilliance in the face of circumstances many times star-crossed that it seems right and fitting his image makes up the NBA’s logo. He also became the third Lakers icon to be memorialized in a statue outside Staples Center, joining Magic Johnson and Chick Hearn when his statue was unveiled on Feb. 17, 2011.

Drafted with the second pick in the 1960 NBA draft, West, a two-time All-American at West Virginia, would be named to the All-Star team 14 times. From 1967 to 1973, he was named to the All-NBA’s first team every year but two; the two years he wasn’t — 1968 and 1969 — he was named to the second team.

He averaged 27 points and 6.7 assists during his 14-year career, but, fittingly for the man known as "Mr. Clutch," averaged more points — 29 — in the playoffs.

Continue reading »

Jerry West to be featured on HBO

Lakers icon Jerry West, who has been in the news a great deal recently thanks to his autobiography, steps into the spotlight once more as part of HBO's "Real Sports" series.

Bryant Gumbel sits down with the NBA Hall of Famer to discuss his lifelong battle with depression.

Real Sports premieres Tuesday Oct. 18 at 10pm ET/PT and replays throughout the month on HBO.

You can watch a preview of West's segment below.


 -- Houston Mitchell

Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Plaschke and Simers discuss their recent issues with the Lakers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West are purple and gold lore, they are legends whose impact on the game continues to have profound reverberations today.

Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. The league's logo is West's silhouette. Despite their accomplishments, both men have felt like they haven't received their due respect from the Lakers organization after their playing days have ended.

Abdul-Jabbar gripes that he hasn't been immortalized with a bronze statue outside of Staples Center. West feels as though Coach Phil Jackson never truly appreciated him.

In their video series, L.A. Now, moderated by Times sports reporter Melissa Rohlin, Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers discuss the Lakers legends and what their legacy will be. Here are some highlights.

On Jerry West:

Both columnists said they think Jerry West is a bit "strange." Plaschke recounted how the former Lakers general manager left the gym during Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers to go see a movie.

"Jerry accomplished a lot in his life, but he also did it with some devils in him," Simers said.

Plaschke called him "one of the most fascinating characters ever in L.A. sports." He discussed how even though West helped build the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal dynasty, he felt overshadowed by Jackson.

 On Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Simers rembembers seeing Pat Riley approach Abdul-Jabbar at an All-Star game in an attempt to introduce him to his friends. The six-time NBA MVP refused to spend any time with them.

"Kareem Abdul-Jabbar feels alienated by everybody and it's basically his own responsibility," Simers said.

Plaschke said Abdul-Jabbar has made himself an unlikable figure in the eyes of Lakers fans.

"James Worthy, Rick Fox get more cheers," Plaschke said.


Plaschke-Simers video: Should Kobe Bryant play overseas?

Plaschke-Simers video: Are the Chargers the best NFL team for L.A.?

Plaschke-Simers video: Should Clayton Kershaw win the Cy Young award?

--Melissa Rohlin

The 10 greatest L.A. Lakers of all time, No. 2: Jerry West



Continuing our countdown of the 10 greatest L.A. Lakers of all time, as chosen by our readers.

No. 2: Jerry West (1,493 first-place votes, 59,490 points)

You know your team has a rich legacy when the guy whose silhouette they used for the NBA logo is only the second-best player in your team's history.

Jerry West was voted to the All-NBA first or second team 12 times and was elected to the NBA All-Star team 14 times. He is the all-time NBA record-holder of points-averaged during a playoff series (46.3) and made the NBA all-defensive team four times, even though that award wasn't introduced to the league until West was 32.

West was head coach of the Lakers for three years and was named general manager of the Lakers before the 1982–83 NBA season, eventually crafting a team that won seven NBA titles.

On the Lakers' all-time list, West is third in games (932), first in free throws made (7,160), 10th in rebounds (5,366), second in assists (6,238), second in points (25,192), third in points per game (27.0) and fourth in assists per game (6.7).

And why was he called "Mr. Clutch"? Watch the video above, and you'll see.

-- Houston Mitchell


No. 10: Jerry Buss

No. 9: Shaquille O'Neal

No. 8: Wilt Chamberlain

No. 7: Chick Hearn

No. 6: James Worthy

No. 5: Elgin Baylor

No. 4: Kobe Bryant

No. 3: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Ted Green: How does Kobe Bryant rank among NBA greats?

Magic West logo Jordan

Ring No. 4 for Kobe Bryant has inevitably set off a small firestorm of debate and spirited conversation about where the Lakers' star falls in the pantheon of NBA greats. For some odd reason, in 35 years of covering the league, I have never before posted my own best-ever list, leaving it to others with less to do. So by popular demand, or just because, here it is, the top 10 NBA greats ever, broken into two groups, pre- and post- Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Modern NBA (Post Magic-Bird)

1. Michael Jordan. Julius Erving may have been The Doctor, but it was MJ who operated with the skill and precision of a preternaturally gifted surgeon. The argument, however passionate, that Kobe is the crazier baller with the madder skills is a good one, and not wrong, either, but it doesn't quite hold up against Michael's extraordinary body of work. Six MVP awards, six NBA Finals MVP awards, six championships, undefeated in the NBA Finals and five scoring titles.

Until Kobe gets to seven, if he does, his Airness is still the measuring stick against whom everyone else will and should be compared.  The fact that We Liked Mike but don't always know how to feel about the more polarizing Kobe did not in any way enter into this decision.

2. Magic Johnson. The greatest team player. More impact on each 48-minute contest, possession to possession, than anyone who ever lived, and maybe the greatest teammate, too. Five titles, four Finals MVP awards, nine trips to the Finals, and all he did in his spare time was revolutionize the point guard position and save the NBA from itself.

3. Kobe Bryant. If his friend Shaq won't mind the ripoff here, the MTE, Most Talented Ever. And now his own extensive resume is looking more polished, with his fourth ring, first Finals MVP (a legit and important award) and finally a championship to call his very own.

4. Larry Bird. Freakiest white dude who ever laced 'em up. Three titles, three Finals MVP awards, might have won five himself if Magic hadn't been in his way. And by the way, his performances winning those three-point contests during All-Star weekend proved that big guys could shoot like that ... or at least Larry Legend could.

5 (tie). Tim Duncan. Karl Malone scored more points and had bigger muscles, Charles Barkley was more of an uber athlete and rebound machine, but no power forward has ever played with the consistency and precision of a metronome like Duncan has.  His four rings, three Finals MVPs and two regular-season MVPs speak to the profound respect the Big Fundamental enjoyed from both the media and his peers.

5 (tie). Shaquille O'Neal. Not the MDE. That was Wilt. But the greatest force of nature since hurricanes and tidal waves. The Daddy's four titles and three Finals MVP awards make Shaq, Kobe and Duncan the winningest among all active NBA players.

Honorable Mention:Lebron James, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley.

Continue reading »

Lakers Bryant to pass West

Kobe Bryant comes into Tuesday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers tied with Lakers legend Jerry West for the second-most games played in franchise history. Assuming he is on the court at Staples Center for the opening tip, Bryant will play in his 933rd game, passing West for sole possession of second place.

The only other man to have played in more games as a Laker is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with 1,093.

--Broderick Turner

Last call: Your choices as the greatest L.A. Lakers of all time


We got 1,151 ballots from you, the loyal reader (and believe me, no one here thought we had 1,151 readers left) for the greatest L.A. Lakers of all time. But before we get to the results, here's  my choice for Nos 4-1.

No. 4: Kobe Bryant

No. 3: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

No. 2: Jerry West (Almost considered making him No. 1 because of his tenure as GM).

No. 1: Magic Johnson

And now, your votes. I removed Chick Hearn from the ballots of those who had him (he would have finished about 15th), and moved everyone else on those ballots up one (some people didn't include him because they thought he was ineligible, so I decided in fairness to take him out entirely.) I did the same for those of you who voted for George Mikan, since he never played in L.A.

You had to be listed on at least 50 ballots to make the list. Players listed in first on a ballot received 12 points, second place got 9, third place got 8, all the way to one point for 10th place.

Players named on fewer than 50 ballots: Bob McAdoo, Phil Jackson, Happy Hairston, Robert Horry, Spencer Haywood, Bill Sharman, Walt Hazzard, Adrian Dantley, Mychal Thompson, AC Green, Kermit Washington.

17th place: Pau Gasol (114 points)

16th place: Kurt Rambis (135 points)

15th place: Derek Fisher (187 points)

14th place: Norm Nixon (197 points)

13th place: Pat Riley (228 points)

12th place: Byron Scott (249 points)

11th place: Jamaal Wilkes (518 points)

10th place: Michael Cooper (1,255 points)

9th place: Gail Goodrich (2,323 points)

8th place: Shaquille O'Neal (4,231 points)

7th place: James Worthy (4,459 points)

6th place: Wilt Chamberlain (31 first-place votes, 5,465 points)

5th place: Elgin Baylor (41 first-place votes, 6,491 points)

4th place: Kobe Bryant (73 first-place votes, 7,663 points). Kobe is a polarizing figure, as over 100 people didn't even list him as one of their 10.

3rd place: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (155 first-place votes, 9,426 points)

2nd place: Jerry West (270 first-place votes, 10,421 points)

1st place: Magic Johnson (581 first-place votes, 11,769 points)

--Houston Mitchell

Shaq needs a history lesson on best Lakers' combo

Shaquille O'Neal, left, and Kobe Bryant

Shaquille O'Neal, proving once again that history is what happened five minutes ago, declared that he and Kobe Bryant were " ... the best Lakers guard-center tandem ... Ever."

A center who redefined the game and a guard who later became the face of the NBA. Wait a minute. Wasn't that Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West (Mr. NBA Logo), the pair that won the L.A. Lakers' first title in 1972 -- during a decade in which no team was able to win back-to-back titles.

OK, maybe Shaq meant the tandem that won the most titles, with three. But Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and that Magic guy won five.

Well, Shaq and Kobe were certainly better than the Vlade Divac-Nick Van Exel duo.

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Shaquille O'Neal, left, and Kobe Bryant in a 2003 file photo. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray: of Pulitzers and pretenders


This is how it goes now in the life of a sports columnist at the Los Angeles Times, an existence also known as: living in the eternal shadow of Jim Murray.

You get some access to former basketball superstar Jerry West. You know there is a column there. You know he is one of those sports names that people always remain interested in. You go, you interview.

West is great, accessible, his normal tortured self, which makes him among the most interesting of subjects to write about. Other sports stars -- any normal person -- learns to rationalize defeats, setbacks. It is the way of survival. Not West. They still burn in him, even some of his high school games back in the 1950s.

His nickname shouldn't be "Mr. Clutch." It should be "Mr. Glass Half Empty."

You are excited. A writer who can't get excited about a chance to attempt, once again, to capture the essence of such a fascinating character is not a writer at all.

So you sit down and write after an afternoon news conference, send in the column and then go to the evening dinner where West is being honored. You are feeling good about yourself, feeling good about your literary attempt.

Then you sit down at the table and there it is. A dinner program, with a reprint of a column on West by your old colleague, the late Jim Murray, one of only five sportswriters to win a Pulitzer prize.

You don't want to read it because you know it will be humbling, but reading Murray has always been like eating potato chips. Once you've read one of his columns, you have to read another. And another.

There it was, from April 27, 1969. And here is a sample from the greatest sportswriter to ever live:

The first time you see Jerry West, you're tempted to ask him how things are in Gloccamorra. The Lakers didn't draft him, they found him -- under a rainbow...There are those who swear Jerry arrives for work everyday by reindeer. He wears the perpetually startled expression of a guy who just heard a dog talk...He has the quickest hands and feet of a guy without a police record. If they put a cap on him sideways and turned him loose on the streets of London, there wouldn't be a wallet in town by nightfall.

There was more, another 20 inches or so. It just got better.

You ponder getting into another business, maybe dry cleaning or lawn mower repair.

You end up taking a deep breath, eating dessert and pondering the definition of immortality.

-- Bill Dwyre

Photo: In a 1998 file photo, Jerry West is shown during a tribute to the late sportswriter at Dodger Stadium. Murray's widow, Linda, is at the left. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Jerry West on Elgin Baylor

The 1968 Lakers team that included Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

The Logo told the Sacramento Bee of his affection for Elgin Baylor and his dismay when the Clippers pushed Baylor out the door after 22 years as an executive with the team.

Jerry West said: "I have so much admiration for Elgin. ... Words cannot describe how well he treated me when I came in as a rookie, what an incredibly classy, wonderful person he is. Yesterday was a sad day for me."

West was a rookie on the 1960-61 Lakers, the team's first season in Los Angeles. On that club, Baylor was the superstar and he averaged 34.8 points and 19.8 rebounds per game, while West, the newcomer from West Virginia, scored 17.6 points per game and shot only 41.9% from the field.

The pair played 12 seasons with the Lakers but they never won an NBA title on the court together. Baylor retired, because of injuries, nine games into the 1971-72 season. That season the Lakers, led by West, Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich, won their first NBA championship in L.A.

West also told the Bee that's he writing an autobiography: "it's going to include the things that made me borderline insane at times. It will be honest. I'm a complex person. Nothing has ever satisfied me. That's just who I am."

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: From left, Lakers Coach Butch van Breda Kolff, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Bill Hewit and Keith Erickson during the fourth quarter of a 1968 game against the Warriors. Credit: Los Angeles Times


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