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Thoughts, Personal Observations and Perspective Thinking about Jerry West

May 29, 2015

The great NBA player and executive Jerry West turned 77 yesterday, one day after the Golden State Warriors, for whom he is an executive, reached the NBA finals for the first time in 40 years.

That is fine and so are Jerry’s exploits as a player, coach, general manager/executive for the Los Angeles Lakers. My comments today are more personal.

He is one of my favorite players and as was the case with Mr. West, at a key age, I was shy, and I shot basketball(s) alone, even as darkness emerged.

Unlike Jerry, I was never a player on an organized team and my shooting is only great when I crumple up a piece of paper and shoot it successfully into a waste paper basket of some width.

Perhaps sadly for both of us, each of us suffered greatly when “our” beloved Lakers lost playoff series–some truly gut wrenching–and were denied NBA titles. (Jerry won but one title as a player and his long time great teammate Elgin Baylor never “titled.”)

Also, it seems some of those losses have “stayed” with Jerry and that makes me sad. First off, he has won numerous titles, though only once as a player. That 1971-1972 team won 33 straight games at one point and is truly one of the greatest teams in sports’ history.

So I say to Jerry and myself, let’s relish the victories he truly had and ones I need to both appreciate, but also put in perspective. I feel being a fan, especially one as intense as I was, could be a big negative.

Yet there is something compelling and important about taking another’s example, in this case the effort, greatness and the perhaps out of whack intensity of Jerry West, and trying to improve one’s own life.

My father worked hard and remarked how I did not appreciate victory, but horribly lamented defeat. Jerry, truly a part of that overblown competition, not me as my father correctly pointed out, was the same way. Again, sad!

Thus let me recall with fondness being in the Lakers’ dressing room after the team repeated as NBA champions in 1988 and interviewing/congratulating then Lakers’ general manager Jerry West.

The Boston Celtics had repeated as NBA champions in 1969, their incredible 11th title in 13 seasons, so many won vs Jerry and Elgin Baylor.

Additionally, another of my favorites, Wilt Chamberlain, and his teams, were ousted so often by the great Celtics in earlier playoff rounds and twice in NBA finals, including the one in 1969.

I reminded Jerry that “our” Lakers’ (108-105) score/victory in game 7 that night in 1988 vs a gritty Detroit Pistons team that would itself repeat as NBA champions, winning the next two titles, was eerily similar to the Celtics’ (108-106) game seven win, when the NBA last had a repeat champion, 19 years earlier in 1969.

I do not remember Jerry’s response but both of us surely thought about West’s 42 point performance in defeat, playing on one good leg in that final game 19 years earlier.

Two undeniable good things in sports are comradery and good sportsmanship.

That helps explain that the fact Celtics’ players John Havlicek, Bill Russell and Larry Siegfreid all expressed their love and admiration for Jerry after that game is indelibly etched in my mind.


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