Jerry West

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

“The greatest honor a man can have is the respect and friendship of his peers. You have that more than any man I know.” – Bill Russell to Jerry West

The logo. Mr. Clutch. Zeke from Cabins Creek. The Great Orchestrator. So many accolades immortalizing the late Jerry West. He won an NBA championship in 1972, was an All-Star for his entire 14-year career, and is the only player in NBA history to have bene named Finals MVP from a losing team. If there was a three-point shot during his era, his stats would have been much higher.

As a player, he was not particularly gifted. But no one worked harder. An all-around guard, West found ways to win. Only John Havlicek matched his stamina. And the Los Angeles Lakers only wanted him to handle the ball in the dying seconds of a game.

What truly set him apart from everyone else was his intense, unwavering passion for the game which, until old age, consumed him. You could say that he was a tortured soul. West agonized over every Finals loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics and Bill Russell, at the time when they rampaged to eight straight champions and added two more. He would recall these tribulations in great detail even decades after.

Even when he built juggernaut Laker teams, he could not bear to watch close games. He would step away from the court, and pace back and forth in the tunnel while smoking furiously. In over 60 years with the NBA, that intensity never waned.

West was fortunate in finding his passion early in life, sticking with it, refining his craft. In an era where nutrition and care for athletes was sparse, he lasted that long despite the tremendous mileage on his knees. It’s frightening for most people to get that obsessive about anything. Jerry West embraced the call of basketball. He was as hard-nosed as they come, but never lost his poise and grace.

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