Friday, October 9, 2009

What made Jerry West one of the greatest players in the NBA?

I’m asked sports questions frequently and 9 times out of 10 I’ll have the answer. On this occasion two kids a 13 year old and 14 year old wanted some answers. The 13 year old kid presented me with a difficult question or at least one that was going to take a little time to answer.

I was asked the impossible question; to “describe what made Jerry West one of the greatest players in NBA history”.

I could’ve given him a sarcastic response or told him to research the information himself which would’ve been wrong considering that this kid was serious and wanted to know.

He could only speak of present day basketball players that he has seen and heard so much about. He didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing any of Jerry’s 932 games, hearing of his exploits or more importantly watching him compete.

I couldn’t truthfully tell him that I saw him play in his prime because he was before my time as well. By the time I did see him play I was 9 years old and Jerry West was at the tail end of his playing career. Thanks to the DVD series “The History of the Los Angeles Lakers” and NBA TV I was able to get myself up to speed years ago.

I took on the task by telling him that when you speak of Jerry West he was known as “Mr. Clutch”, “Zeke from Cabin Creek”, the Los Angeles Lakers 1st ever draft pick and later known as ‘the Logo’ as in the NBA Logo. I shared with him the mix he was described as in the NBA Encyclopedia.

“Combine a deadly jump shot, tenacious defense, obsessive perfectionism, unabashed confidence, and an uncompromising will to win, and you’ve got Jerry West, one of the greatest guards in NBA history”.

Fortunately for me and him I happen to collect previous sporting events on DVD & Video. He had no idea what a video tape was by the way but that is a different story for a different day.

I told him that Jerry West played his entire playing career with the L.A. Lakers. I showed him highlights of the 1969 NBA Finals game in which Jerry West posted a triple double with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He was shocked to see that Jerry West was named the Finals MVP. He was the first and only Finals MVP from the losing team.

I told them that he is a guy that has many accomplishments; he was an All-Star every year of his career, MVP of the 1972 All-Star game, played in 9 NBA finals finally winning a NBA title in 1972, he helped build the Lakers dynasty in the 1980’s that won 5 championships and brought coach Phil Jackson and both Shaq and Kobe to Los Angeles which helped the team win 4 more titles.

Apparently Jerry West’s influence had grown on the kids as I heard one say on more than one occasion “his jumper is perfect and goes in every time he shoots” and “he probably had to work really hard to make all of those shots”. I was elated to hear them say to each other that “we have to work hard on our game every chance we get”.

Their responses told me that in a sense they answered their own question. All I could do was to tell them that you have to learn how to play the game the right way, give it your all, constantly push yourself to the point of exhaustion if need be to make sure that no so that no one will outwork you.

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