Jerry West thinks little of being a 14-time NBA All-Star
For a ceremony meant to celebrate Jerry West's finish as the Lakers' second all-time leading scorer, winner of the 1971-72 championship and tenure as general manager that secured seven NBA titles, "The Logo" made clear Thursday before his statue was unveiled outside Staples Center that he viewed his career through a different prism.
He wished teammate Elgin Baylor could have a statue next to his. He lamented the six NBA Finals losses to the Boston Celtics. And he acknowledged he's writing an autobiography that will be harshly critical of himself.
So it doesn't come as much surprise that he makes very little of his 14 NBA All-Star appearances, let alone his view that the current NBA All-Star game is a "playground game." Still, there was this quote he shared with The Los Angeles Times in 1965 on what it meant to be on the All-Star team: "There were times when I thought I'd never make it pro. I was quite discouraged until they selected me for the All-Star Game. That was the lift I needed. I still would play a good one, then a poor one. But by playoff time, I felt I could become an outstanding player." Still, there were at least two All-Star games that remain fresh in his mind, for obvious reasons.
The 1964 NBA All-Star game brought attention labor issues: This was going to be one of the first televised games in the infant NBA. But that almost came to a screeching halt because of players, West among them, dissatisfied that they weren't being paid enough. The Times' Mike Bresnahan recently reported that most stars at that time never made more than $28,500 a year, needed second jobs, lacked pensions, lacked equal access to athletic trainers and often had to play afternoon games following an evening contest. West, for one, wanted to put an end to this.
"I was young and just trying to feel my way along and build a career for myself," West said. Lakers owner Bob Short "said to us very threateningly, 'If you don't play in this game, you're probably never going to play again.' I then said, 'I'm never going to play a game.' I am pretty defiant.
"The players were controlled by the owners," West continued. "All of us felt like we were slaves in the sense we had no rights. No one made anything then. You had to work in the summer. It was the stone ages of basketball."
1972 NBA All-Star game: This game served as one of numerous examples why West was nicknamed "Mr. Clutch." He hit a last-second shot that proved the game-winner in the Western Conference's 112-110 victory over the East, earned him an NBA All-Star MVP award and led the team with 13 points on six of nine shooting, six rebounds and five assists. West considered it a good omen for resulting 1972 title.
"It was part of a special year for us, not because of that but because we won our only championship I participated on with the players I played with," West said. "That year, little did I know that would hold a lot of memories for me, particularly with winning a championship."
Note: The Times' Mike Bresnahan will have a live chat today from 10:30 a.m. to noon to talk all things Lakers, the NBA All-Star game, trading deadline, the Time Warner Cable deal and much more.