From the player so iconic his silhouette forms the NBA logo, a memoir intended to explain himself to fans and to...himself.
Jerry West is on everyone’s list of the greatest basketball players ever. As the general manager of the Lakers, he assembled six championship teams. He’s so beloved and admired, there’s a statue of him outside Los Angeles’s Staples Center. Who wouldn’t want to be Jerry West? Well, maybe Jerry West, for one. He played basketball, he writes, “to try and feel good about myself when everything else in my life was confusing and frustratingly unexplainable.” An abusive father, an emotionally remote mother and the Korean War death of a favorite older brother accounted for this withdrawn, overly sensitive youth who turned to basketball to feel alive and in control. The game became a sanctuary, but did nothing to repair a tormented soul and perhaps even exacerbated some “weird” tendencies that have complicated his life. Notwithstanding all his on-court success, his reputation as “Mr. Clutch,” this tortured perfectionist remains “scarred” by his failures: a one-point loss in the 1959 NCAA championship game, six NBA Finals losses to the ‘60s Celtics, not winning the MVP award for his outstanding 1969-70 season. Hardcore fans will relish West’s reflections on the game that has obsessed him, stories about teammates and opposing players and his selections for an all-time Dream Game. They’ll likely be surprised by his erudition—he peppers the narrative with allusions to writers as disparate as Malamud, Merton, Didion, Gladwell and Joseph Campbell—and the numerous, unflattering personal revelations. West makes scalding comments about people as diverse as Douglas MacArthur, Jesse Jackson and Phil Jackson, but he reserves his harshest commentary for himself as a brother, father and husband. He grapples with the role of a sports hero, a mantle he’s loath to embrace, and appears to have made a sincere, if not always successful, attempt at self-awareness.
In a genre notorious for merely waving pompoms, West offers an unusually candid account of his personal and professional life.