Jerry West played in an era where great rivalries helped shape the NBA and made it more appealing to fans. He was targeted by opposing teams' defenses as one of the star players for the Lakers in the 60s and 70s. In an interview, West shared what made their era different than today.
"Don't sleep with the enemy"
Comparing eras will always be an interesting and never-ending topic for fans, and players as well. As one of the OGs, West naturally would defend his era as more competitive. But The Logo added he still had high respect for some of his rivals, such as Oscar Robertson or Clyde Frazier.
"You know when the game was going on I despised them," West said. "After the game, I had great respect for them and more importantly I appreciated their skill but today these kids start playing against each other when they're in AAU basketball. you know kids from California can be friends with kids in New York, Florida."
When Jerry was asked about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami, he claimed there were reasons behind players wanting to be teammates with their rivals. He added that Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell went to dinners together despite having gone to war against each other on the basketball court, but he wouldn't do it.
You know to me, don’t sleep with the enemy.
Jerry West, The Dan Patrick Show
The game has changed a lot from 1960 to 2020. It became global and evolved to cater to younger audiences. That's why players being friends with each other makes news. Superstars vacationing together or dining together leads to collaborations, movies, and commercials. West believed rivals should not hang out off the court, but it's different now. Players cannot choose to do things privately anymore. The media covers every move they make.
Championships over personal glory
The Logo missed other essential points: what if teaming up with rivals may mean getting closer to a championship? What if, despite giving their all to the franchise, the team failed to surround their star players with enough support to compete?
The game has evolved, and it will continue to change through time, even if that means agents are getting away with more control than they used to have. It's nice to look back and compare how things were done in the past, but Jerry West should also take note of the improvements and the positives that came with the change today. Competitiveness-wise, Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the closest to having that old-school mindset among young stars in the current NBA.
If West is okay and content with how his career turned out, then good for him. But the old-school guys should let the current players pursue what they think is best for their careers and families.