A new autobiography on the life of Jerry West reveals that the 14-time NBA All-Star and former Lakers' GM suffered from lifelong depression, was abused by his father as a child and once kept a shotgun beneath his bed as a potential defense against beatings. West writes that his defiant mentality remained with him throughout life, from his career at West Virginia to his tenure in the Lakers' front office.
In West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, excerpted in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, West details his interactions with many prominent members of the Lakers' organization, most notably Phil Jackson. His relationship with the 11-time NBA champion coach was strained, and Jackson once ejected West from the team's locker room.
In the book, West writes:
One of the first problems I had with Phil was this: His office was right near mine, and when he arrived in the morning he would walk past and never even bother to say hello. He would later say that he felt the need to take out his territory, that on top of that he was a "wack job," but I am sure it was more than that. He didn't want me around, and he had absolutely no respect for me.
The book also delves into West's perspective on Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal's coexistence Los Angeles, a duo he united via a trade and free agent signing in 1996. In the book, he writes:
Kobe's demeanor couldn't have been more different from Shaquille's. Whereas Shaquille was a big kid, blowing kisses to everyone the way Magic did, Kobe had a bottomless reservoir of drive that fueled him not just to beat you but to embarrass you, even if you were on his own team. Shaquille felt I was too protective of Kobe, and maybe I was.
West said he believes he could have intervened as the players' relationship deteriorated, a falling out that prompted O'Neal's trade to Miami in 2004. He writes:
While the tension between Shaquille and Kobe appeared to be at its worst, I recall thinking that if I were still with the Lakers, I would have appealed to both of them and said, "Hey look, this does not make either of you look good." If their response had been, "I don't care," I would have said, "No, you should care, because this will affect your future. It will affect your ability to be paid the kind of dollars that you want to be paid. You guys can't make this personal."
The book, which took more than three years to complete, touches on a variety of other topics, ranging from West's crippling fear of failure to his trying relationship with Jerry Buss. West also provides his reaction to his legacy, Wilt Chamberlain's death and Phil Jackson's book The Last Season, a work he writes is "beyond [him]."
West's goal for his memoir was not to draw attention to individual accomplishments. It was to depict the internal workings that motivated his actions -- both on and off the court.
"Most people just want to write a book about their exploits," West told SI's Gary Smith in a story in this week's issue. "I wanted none of that. I did it to show people I'm not who they think I am. I'm a very flawed person. I'm hopeful it can be an inspiration, to show that you don't need support or encouragement, that you can find a way. I'm more at peace with myself now. Getting out the things I've kept inside for so many years."