During their run together with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal took the franchise to great heights. There were turbulent times during their tenure alongside each other, but it didn’t prevent them from reaching the mountaintop three times in four trips to the NBA Finals. One of the biggest reasons for the two being paired together was Hall of Famer Jerry West, manning the Lakers general manager position for many years. Before that entire run got started, Bryant and O’Neal played a part in West having to be hospitalized.
Jerry West’s career following playing days
Jerry West put forth an illustrious NBA career that saw him firmly establish himself as one of the greatest players.
West helped play a pivotal part in helping shape the NBA as he was one of the top players during his time that saw him achieve great heights. He was a 14-time All-Star selection, earned 10 All-NBA First Team nods, four All-Defensive First Team selections, an NBA title, and an NBA Finals MVP, among other things.
Following his playing days, West took on the role of head coach of the Lakers for three years before becoming the general manager of the franchise. West played a pivotal part in helping shape their 1980s showtime team that was led by Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Following that era, he helped usher in their next dynasty with the team headed by a pair of all-time greats that initially drove him to the hospital.
How Kobe Bryant and Shaq drove Jerry West to the hospital
The Lakers were looking to hit their next gear with the departure of Magic Johnson, which led to Jerry West to make a strong push to turn the franchise into something special yet again.
That saw him make two crucial moves in the 1996 offseason as he signed star center Shaquille O’Neal and traded up in the draft to get Kobe Bryant. During an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger, West revealed that the entire process had emotionally drained to the point where he needed to be hospitalized.
“It was one of the elated periods of my life when we signed Shaquille O’Neal because I worked so hard in doing that with establishing a relationship with him over the phone….I like the kid, I like to have fun with people and I never took myself seriously. I don’t like to do that. Even today when I see him, it’s like seeing one of my really big kids. But I also told our owner that night that I think we got the best player in the draft.
“We actually couldn’t sign him to a contract yet because he was 17 years old. It was not in vogue to draft young kids. It took a lot of hard work to get him, and I remember after that was done and the draft was done I had to go to the hospital for three days. I was just emotional exhausted. The day after that I went to see the doctor and he said ‘we are going to have to put you in the hospital.’ I was there for three days.
That process required much of West’s energy to get those two moves to happen as he put much leg work into it all. He courted O’Neal greatly and got him the lucrative deal was eyeing while he somehow managed to acquire Bryant through the draft despite not having a high selection. These moves forever changed the franchise.
Jerry West has great admiration for Kobe Bryant, Shaq
Although these situations wore out Jerry West emotionally, it helped shape the groundwork for the foundation of their next dynasty.
West put together two players that would push each other to great heights individually and collectively as a unit. He has a critical role in the franchise’s history on and off the court that forever ingrains them with their overall success.
That also saw him build strong bonds with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal that went well beyond the basketball court.