Jerry West's Anguish (part III)

People often wonder why former Laker great Jerry West was chosen as the image for the red, white, and blue NBA logo. No one is exactly sure, but friends of his assume that the honor was given to West as an anti-dote for all the pain he had suffered at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Six times his Lakers lost to the Celtics in the Finals while West was a player, once they lost while West was a general manager, and once (in 2008) they lost while West was as an interested onlooker.

As the losses to Boston piled up, West got to the point where he couldn’t stand the sight of anything colored green. He wouldn’t wear anything green, and any furniture or belongings he owned of that color were thrown away or put in storage. “After the loss at the Forum in the 1969 Finals,” West said, “the rivalry began to dominate my every thought, and they weren’t exactly healthy thoughts.”

The first five times his Lakers lost to the Green, the Celtics were favored. In the 1969 Finals, however, the Lakers enjoyed home-court advantage, they had Wilt Chamberlain, and the Boston Celtics were an aging, injured group of players on the downsides of their careers. There was every reason to believe the Lakers would win.

But they didn't.

Still, West played so well he won the Finals MVP, the only player ever to do so for a losing team. Already inconsolable, his mood turned bleak when he saw the car that came with the award.

It was a brand new Cadillac.


Bright green.

--Roland Lazenby


Michael said...

Jerry West is a very interesting case. I recall him making some comments during this past season (could've been right before, not sure) about needing a superstar...it was an odd set of quotes in the article I had read. He basically talked a lot about how Kevin Garnett was nice, but Kobe—yeah, KOBE—that's what you really needed to be successful. It struck me as a little odd at the time, but I did know a little about West's past demons, at least I'd heard about it (basically the guy can't handle losing, it's a wonder he survived the Celtics dynasty) and I wondered if West sees Kobe as sort of his redeeming self-reflection.

I don't really know how West played or whether a Kobe comparison is legitimate, but it was really interesting how he framed the discussion, especially considering KG is probably the closest thing to a modern day Russell. I wasn't even sure he was talking about winning, because the teams of West (Kobe in the contemporary if you will) couldn't beat the teams of Russell (KG). Wish I remembered where that article was...

Lex said...

Yeah, I remember that.

It was right after the Celtics win at Staples on 12/30.

I'll find those quotes and post them sometime in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I'm honored that you would use my writing on your blog. And I'm relieved that in using it you included my byline. You wouldn't believe the bloggers that violate copyright without giving credit.
Just one quick point. You've added to my story that West played an undisclosed role in the acquisition of Pau Gasol by the Lakers. I did not write that in my original story, and I have discovered no information to that effect.
I think it's fairer to say that some people suspect West of playing such a role. I don't, however. West has heavily influenced both teams through his presence in their front offices. He has mentored numerous people working there. He talks to people regularly on the phone.
But everyone involved said the deal was not of West's making. Now, if the Memphis owner wants to dump a prize player and clear up the team's financial future (he's losing millions, by the way), he wants to do it quickly, because the outcry is going to be big. The people that West has mentored were then left to make a deal.
That's about as far as you can offer as fact.
This is an important distinction, because after years of writing about the Lakers I am writing a biography of Jerry West. I don't want to be accused of stretching the truth.
I enjoy your blog.

Roland Lazenby
author of The Show

Lex said...


A visit from the author himself!

It is me that is honored.

I will make the edit.

Lex said...

Follow up to Roland:

On the subject of copyright, the way I read the digital copyright act, it appears to say that as long as I give credit and then agree to remove something at the author's request, I can re-post copyrighted material.

Is that your reading?

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