Skip to main content

JERRY WEST SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE “The greatest learning lesson I had about race was by black teammates”

Elgin-Baylor-Wilt-Chamberlain-Jerry-West

Despite his legendary status in the basketball world, Jerry West had a difficult life. He understands suffering and pain. That's why West is so supportive of African-American players fighting for justice and equality. As in his book West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life (2011), West immediately made it clear that he fully empathizes with the black community. He made a comparison to something a lot more benign, but something we can all connect to in the present day.

“And I think you can see it now with people who walk around, no mask on, in an area which is dangerous to people, particularly people my age. It's a lack of respect that bothers me more than anything. People are human beings. We all should be treated alike.”

Jerry West, Legends of Sport

After winning a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, West was selected by the L.A. Lakers with the 2nd overall pick in the 1960 NBA draft. Playing for the Lakers until 1974, West witnessed the emergence of the civil rights and community movement in Los Angeles and across the United States. 

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

The 60s and 70s were a bit different than the experience players have now. It was actually more like the Orlando bubble. Everyone would stay at the same hotel, players didn't make that much money and there wasn't a lot to do. So players would often hang out with the opposing team, playing cards all night and getting to know each other. That's when West realized how little he knows and understands. 

“There were times when we spent so much time together, and probably the greatest learning lesson I had about race was by black teammates. Because, back then, everyone had to go to school for four years. You're talking about a 22-year old young man who, some of us were wet behind the ears, but what they saw was completely different from what I saw. And my empathy for the race has always been there.”

Jerry West, Legends of Sport

Six decades after becoming a part of the Lakers organization, the architect of the 1980s and 2000s Lakers dynasties, shows a great deal of respect for The Black Lives Matter movement. West recognizes the social media platforms as the potential game-changers in the fight against racial discrimination.

“Everyone should have a right to have some dignity, and in this country, there's a lot of people that had been disenfranchised, and they certainly did. Today, with the promise of the black athletes, and the ability to see, people will listen because they are so popular. And hopefully, this would change the mind of the people on how we should treat each other, not only with respect but with dignity. And respect different cultures. My goodness, in this city [Los Angeles], what do we have, ninety different languages, their different communities here and there. And I think the greatest lesson that I have learned in my life is giving, being kind to everyone.”

Jerry West, Legends of Sport

It's troubling to know that most people learned about the Tulsa massacre from "Watchmen" and not in school. Jerry West's lesson is precious - we all need to find that late card game with someone different than us and listen. Have an open mind, take people at their best, and try to learn.

Shawn Bradley

“Those thoughts creep in” — Shawn Bradley contemplated the darkest thoughts amid paralysis due to a bike accident

Shawn Bradley has been paralyzed after a bike accident but he did not lack the support he needs. Still, the burden it gave his family sometimes prompt him to contemplate the worst.

Western Conference guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers

Gilbert Arenas revealed the untold part about Chris Paul's vetoed trade to the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe, CP3, Dwight and two max slots? This scenario would overtake The Decision and Durant to the Warriors as the craziest free agency period in NBA history.

Kevon Looney and the Golden State Warriors are going big to take down the Dallas Mavericks

Kevon Looney and the Golden State Warriors are going big to take down the Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs going small has allowed Looney to eat, and his success in the paint on both ends of the floor is a big reason the series stands at 2-0

Devin Booker suffered devastating losses in the finals and playoffs. Fortunately, he has more than enough reasons to try again

Can Devin Booker redeem himself and his reputation after another playoff meltdown?

Devin Booker suffered devastating losses in the finals and playoffs. Fortunately, he has more than enough reasons to try again.

Amare Stoudemire questions Tyler Herro’s focus: He wants all this entertainment stuff, but where is the focus on basketball?

Amare Stoudemire questions Tyler Herro’s focus: "He wants all this entertainment stuff, but where is the focus on basketball?

Herro won the 6th Man of the Year but he's struggling in these playoffs. Amare Stoudemire questions where his focus is right now.

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Smart has always been a solid defensive player, but his offensive strides have allowed him to become the player the Celtics need