In the NBA community, Hall of Famer Jerry West is held in prestigious regard for what he accomplished during and following his playing days. West put forth an impressive career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that saw him become one of the best general managers in the league with the organization many years later. However, it hasn’t all been glorious for him as he had dealt with low moments on and off the basketball court that put him a dark place mentally that included considering the path of suicide.
Jerry West’s Hall of Fame resume
Jerry West has commonly been regarded as one of the greatest players to play the game.
During his illustrious NBA career with the Lakers, West 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.
West was an elite talent behind his scoring ability that made the Lakers into a powerhouse, leading the franchise to nine NBA Finals appearances. Following his playing days, he did spend three years as the Lakers head coach before taking on the role of the general manager for the franchise. He was a crucial factor in helping from the 1980s showtime teams that won five NBA titles with Magic Johnson leading the charge.
It didn’t stop there for West as he helped bring Shaquille O’Neal over to Los Angeles while making a move to acquire Kobe Bryant in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft. He also helped bring in Phil Jackson to coach the team that guided them for three straight NBA titles before his departure in 2002. West has gone to play front office roles with the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, and now LA Clippers, where he has been credited for helping bring stability to the franchises.
Jerry West considered suicide
What is often overlooked in the professional sports world is that the athletes are as human as everyone else when it comes to their emotional state.
Jerry West is certainly no different as he detailed in his book,
“West by West: My Charmed, Tortured Life,” that he had battled depression since childhood that was correlated to his beating from his father. West touched on those personal struggles with dealing with potential suicidal thoughts during his interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger.
“That’s a hard one to talk about because when you get so deep in a hole and you don’t really have the strength to dig out of that hole. When you asked my about winning your first championship, Peggy Lee had a song “Is that all there is?,” and that song really applied because I didn’t feel any elation until three days later and it was “oh my gosh” we really accomplished that. I wasn’t around any of my teammates and in my private thoughts.
“I felt there have been times in my life that have been so low. Is it worth it to feel this bad all the time. I have had some success in dealing with that. I read a lot about people who have had extraordinary lives, been extraordinary leaders and some of the battles that they have gone through was the same thing. What goated them on was more hard work and more competition. Maybe finding a silver lining in things you have done pretty well in your life.”
West helped will himself through those dark times by shifting his focus over to helping younger people out while also doing things to honor his brother. It’s often hard to comprehend with professional athletes or iconic figures that they can deal with the daily struggles that others go through.
Mental health should garner more attention
There are many other former and current professional athletes that have dealt with personal struggles.
Mental health is often a taboo topic spoken about in the media and the world in general, but it’s something that affects everyone. In the NBA, players such as Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan have embraced the subject and brought much-needed awareness.
West’s story is one many of those struggling can use as a motivation to push through for the betterment of themselves and those around them.