Jerry West has accomplished more in just one lifetime than most people could every hope to in an eternity, which makes the revelation of his long and arduous battle with depression that much more remarkable and admirable.
West's private woes date back to his childhood, when his father, a coal mine electrician in West Virginia, would abuse him, both physically and verbally, thereby degrading his self-esteem and sense of self-worth. West's memoir, West By West: My Charmed, Tormented Life, is set to hit bookstores (what few of them are left) on Wednesday.
West says those issues never hindered him on the court during his 14-year NBA career, during which he won an NBA championship, a Finals MVP and was named to the All-NBA First Team on 10 occasions. Instead, West says he was motivated by a deep fear of failure, one that grew out of a last-second loss to Cal in the NCAA Tournament Final when he played at West Virginia. It became ever-more engrossing with each of the six defeats he suffered at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
West, a very private man whose influence within the world of sports extends far beyond the hardwood, deserves tremendous credit for speaking so honestly and publicly about his struggles. Coming clean about such a debilitating condition is an incredibly difficult task for anyone, much less a public figure like West, who has touched so many lives and serves as a role model for people around the world.
The fact that he's been able to achieve so much—become one of the greatest basketball players of all time, build two separate NBA dynasties with the Lakers, enjoy tremendous success in the business world—all while coping with depression, fear and self-doubt, speaks volumes of The Logo's determination and mental wherewithal.
West's admission also serves as a reminder to sports fans everywhere once again that our athletic heroes are far from perfect, that they've often had to overcome tremendous obstacles to reach the dazzling heights of fame, fortune and notoriety, to which so many have aspired.
Most importantly, by sharing his struggles with the world, West has become a role model, an empowering figure for people everywhere who suffer from insecurities, both fleeting and crippling. West's personal story makes his achievements that much more inspirational, showing that we needn't let our inner demons prevent us from doing great things.
Where once Jerry West was a hero reserved for sports fans, basketball junkies and Purple and Gold devotees, he has now become a shining beacon of hope for people in all walks of life.