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Jerry West defines what separates a good player from a great player


Today, when all of the starters in the league are considered stars, and the superstar level is more reachable than ever (depending on the number of zeroes on your bank balance and several social media accounts), there is a growing concern on how to define basketball greatness.

If there’s one guy who spent most of his adult life surrounded by greatness, it’s Jerry West. The list of truly great basketball players Jerry West had the privilege of being around, working with, and competing against is tremendous. There’s no better authority on defining a term that’s been overused in recent times. 

West is irritated by a growing number of players, their agents, and media representatives, who declare certain players ‘basketball greats,’ while, they’ve just taken the initial step toward that direction.

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“We had a lot of basketball players in this league who have had very good careers, but I look at them, and everyone talks about them as greatest players, I think they made the All-Pro team one time. That, to me, is not a great player. For someone to be a great player, you have to make it at least, minimum EIGHT TIMES. That, to me, would define the truly great player. And my definition of greatness and other people’s definition of greatness is far removed from what people celebrate today.”

Jerry West, Legends of Sports podcast

West pointed out that he used the COVID quarantine to do one of his favorite activities – reading. West read dozens and dozens of books in this period, and the same way you train your body in a gym, you train your mind by reading. Not many people do that these days, and one of the consequences is the bastardization of nuance. Combine that with social media, the effect it had on communication, and everyone projecting a false image of themselves to the world, and you get a world full of “greatness.”

“You reject people when you only care about yourself, and honestly, I see that so much today - self-promotion, people are lying like crazy about who they are. Why can’t people just be honest about who they are and the problems they face? I think this would be a better world. We’re creating so much division in this country by people fudging on the truth all the time, and not being candid.”

Jerry West, Legends of Sports podcast

West concluded that way of thinking catches up with you eventually, and often it’s too late to change. So the next time you think about referring to someone’s “greatness,” stop and think about what that word means. If everyone is great, is anyone great?

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