I wasn’t a child who actively looked for heroes. I was enamored enough with my parents and friends that I didn’t feel the need to put my hopes and dreams onto a public figure. However, that didn’t keep me from putting Jerry West on a very high level.
In reading West’s first autobiography from 1969, “Mr. Clutch,” I was riveted by his descriptions of life in West Virginia and his total dedication to basketball. As an eleven-year-old enjoying a balmy Southern California life, West’s story was a world away from my experience.
However, I related to his work ethic and desire to master a skill as thoroughly as possible. It impressed me and allowed me to further appreciate what he did on the court.
In his new autobiography, “West by West: My Charmed and Tormented Life,” the reasons for his obsessive escape into basketball become clear. Reading it over this past weekend, I felt like that boy again reading “Mr. Clutch.”
It’s not shocking that the Lakers failed to repeat for a third straight year as NBA champions, nor is it a surprise that their players are starting to show the strain of high mileage extended playoff seasons.
What did take me aback was the lack of competitiveness in this year’s team, save for the spurt of dominance immediately after the all-star break. I assumed that was the “real” Lakers team and that it would make an appearance in the playoffs. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
I can’t recall seeing an NBA team of this talent looking so burned out and confused, after having dominated the league. This team didn’t go into gradual decline; it fell off the edge of the table. The rapidity of its disintegration was remarkable.
Like most Lakers fans I was sad to see Coach Phil Jackson go out with his team falling apart in every area. He deserved better, but the horrible performance Sunday doesn’t diminish his extraordinary achievements as pro basketball’s most successful coach.