Book Review: West By West: My Charmed, Tormented Life

What else can we say about Jerry West? A Los Angeles Laker champion and legend as a player and a general manager, immortalized in bronze for a statue this year. Olympic champion and one of the greatest players the league has ever seen. The man is the image of the logo of the NBA for heaven’s sake…he is a basketball god.

What more can you say than that?

Or what more can be said about this man than Roland Lazenby’s incredible read Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon? Well how about some words from the man himself. A shy at times, troubled man who isn’t one for interviews, press conferences or even events honoring him. What more do we need now than some words from the horse’s mouth?

So one of the Lakers greatest knights finally opens up with Jonathan Coleman for the magnificent, moving memoir West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life. A book that covers everything from the highest of Mr. West’s highs to the lowest of his lows on and off the basketball court. Recounts of a classic career that saw Gold on the national and international stage, a bevvy of legendary teammates and associates and a reputation for being one of the best closers in the game are detailed here.

Relationships with Laker legends like Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the lack of one with Phil Jackson are detailed here. As are his relationship with Bill Russell and the Lakers bitter, storied rival the Boston Celtics who ignited the competitive fire by beating them six time in one decade.

Still, it’s when Jerry details the facts about his personal life that things become more open and revealing. A side that should truly be explored if your read this book and not this review. Jerry tells his story best with humble honest and touching tenderness.
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The guy said to have a regular Joe name could almost change it to Frank Forthright. The silhouette of the NBA comes out from the shadows to shed some light on his troubles and in a way helps illuminate the darkness of fellow depression sufferers. It’s a bold and brave move which Jerry executes as precisely and perfectly as one of his buzzer-beating shots.

The Big Shot player doesn’t clutch for sympathy or fish for compliments, instead he inspires with his profound, poignant look at the fragility of life and the strength of one’s character. Mr. Clutch will have you in his grasp in a one-sitting, page-turning read. This is a influential portrait and as this pro confesses over some pros he remains even in retirement the consummate professional.

One of the greatest finishers of all-time yet again sends a shiver down our spine with a big play that leaves everyone better off for it. Once again Mr. West finds his range and strikes the right chord. The man that won a championship, a gold medal and brought ‘Showtime’ and Shaq and Kobe to L.A. scores his biggest hit.

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