There may be no more introspective and compelling figure in American sports than Jerry West.
In his new biography — which hits the stands Wednesday, if you actually still went to stands — West is very open about the challenges of his childhood with an abusive father, how that led to depression and drove him to become what he was.
West says his West Virginia childhood was devoid of love and filled with anger as a result of his abusive father, who left him feeling tormented and worthless.
“I would go to bed feeling like I didn’t even want to live,” West says in a segment airing Tuesday on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” “I’ve been so low sometimes and when everyone else would be so high because I didn’t like myself.”
West says his depression never bothered him as a player during 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers because he was so driven by a fear of failure. However, once the season ended, he would dwell on the defeats, including the Lakers’ six NBA finals losses to the Boston Celtics.
West was so nervous as a general manager for the Lakers that he famously went to the movies to see “Gladiator” during a 2000 NBA finals game rather than watch.
West admits to taking Prozac and working through his depression now. Hopefully more than just a good story he can inspire a few people to take on their depression, too.