West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life

Attention, basketball fans: Jerry West’s bestselling autobiography is now available in paperback.   

West by West By Jerry West Little, Brown 352 pp.

 If you’re a fan of the National Basketball Association, Hall of Famer Jerry West can never be far from your mind, even if only subliminally. West, you see, is the player depicted since 1969 in the league’s silhouetted logo.

The NBA has never officially confirmed this, but former league commissioner Walter Kennedy once told the Los Angeles Laker great, “That’s you.” As a result, one of West’s nicknames is “Logo,” a fact related in his autobiography, West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, a bestselling hardback now available in softcover. 

When first published in 2011, much attention was given to the revelation that West has long battled depression and was physically abused by his father. But the real essence of this book, written with Jonathan Coleman (ironically, a lifelong Celtics fan), is West’s fascinating life in basketball, from his high school stardom in Chelyan, W.Va., to his playing days at both the University of West Virginia and the Los Angeles Lakers, to his years as a coach, and later, an executive with the Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Today, West is an adviser to the Golden State Warriors and a member of the team’s executive board.

He is uncommonly forthright about his experiences and eccentricities, both on and off the court. He acknowledges that even his own sons sometimes consider his behavior “weird” and jokingly call him Cement Head because of his impeccably combed hair.

West was a 14-time NBA all-star known for his cool under pressure, his shooting marksmanship, and his intense competitiveness.

The watershed event in West’s young life occurred in 1951, when his beloved older brother, David, was killed in action in the Korean War. Dealing with that shock drove him ever deeper into playing basketball, which became his sanctuary and refuge, the place where he says “I felt most alive, where I was most in control.”

In 2010, after years of resisting, West finally traveled to South Korea in a cathartic journey that he calls the trip of his life. He visited the spot where his brother had fallen in an emotional experience which he says was both comforting and unsettling.

This episode constitutes a biographical window on West’s motivational fires, the ones that have driven him to a life that reads like a modern history of basketball, replete with stories of the greats, including Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant

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