He has one of the greatest NBA careers, if not the greatest NBA career ever. Jerry West played for the Lakers from 1960 to 1974, with guys like Wilt and Elgin. He then coached the Purple and Gold with Kareem on the team. After that, West was the Lakers GM from 1979 to 2002, creating the Magic Showtime era and joining Shaq and Kobe. You may say it’s easy to do all that while on the Lakers. West felt the same way.
“After being a part of the Laker's success for so many years, I have always wondered how it would be to build a winning franchise that has not experienced much success. I want to help make a difference.”
Jerry West, NBA.com
That’s why he joined the Grizzlies and turned a franchise about to be sold into a perennial playoff competitor in a loaded Western Conference. He did gift Pau Gasol to the Lakers, but also set the foundation for the Marc and Conely years.
After taking a few years off, West joined yet another franchise that had been down for a very long time but had a few promising players. West was one of the most prominent people in the Warriors’ decision-making process who was firmly in the “we shouldn’t trade Klay for Kevin Love” camp. In 2017 he went back to LA, but this time to the Clippers, just about when they became a well-run organization.
I say all this to help you understand the gravity of this next quote.
“Jerry is the most tortured individual I’ve ever known in my life. Everybody loves him, but he’s a tortured man.”
David Aldrige, Hoops Adjecent
Oh, I forgot to add he has two of the best nicknames a basketball player could have. “Mr. Clutch” cause he was, and “The Logo” cause he is. The man is the actual logo of the NBA! What would be an example of his tortured nature?
“Think about this. When the Lakers won their first championship under Phil Jackson in 2000, Games 6 was at Staples - HE COULDN’T COME TO THE GAME!!! The dude drove around LA, would listen the game on the radio and then turn it to something else. He could not bear to watch it, and when they win he’s stil thinking ‘Oh s**t, we gotta do it again!’”
Brad Turner, Hoops Adjecent
David Aldrige confirmed this. He called West before Game 6, and as Aldridge was hanging up the phone, he threw in an “I’ll see you there,” and West quickly replied, “No you won’t.” Shocked, Aldridge asked West what did he mean, and West simply said,”I’m not gonna be there.”
”He lost to the Celtics so much and he blamed himself, and I’m like ‘Jerry, you literally averaged 40 points a game, what are you talking about??? There’s nothing more you could’ve done.’”
David Ladrige, Hoops Adjecent
As is most often, people as tortured as West usually find the cause of that torture far in their past. West is open about having an abusive father, one he “didn’t like and respect.” To make it through such childhood, West’s relationship with his siblings became crucial. So when years later, his brother was killed in the Korean War, it was devastating for The Logo. Things got so dark West considered suicide. Due to the time it took for the mail from soldiers to come home, the family had buried Jerry’s brother before all his letters had arrived. One of those letters probably holds the key to the tortured nature of West’s basketball success.
“I can recall tears running down her [West’s mother’s] cheeks. She would show me one of them and his encouragement to me ‘Tell Jerry to keep working on his basketball.’ I think one of the biggest regrets I have in my life was him never having a chance to see me play. I think he would’ve though ‘My brother was pretty special.’”
Jerry West, In Depth with Graham Bensiger
We are 100% certain he would.