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West was also-ran champion

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
More info on Jerry West
By Fred W. Kiger
Special to

Signature Game
April 29, 1970 - When Dave DeBusschere's jumper with three seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the New York Knicks a 102-100 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Forum, it looked like Game 3 of the NBA Finals was over. But Jerry West thought otherwise.

Taking the in-bounds pass from Wilt Chamberlain, he let it fly from about 60 feet. Knicks guard Walt Frazier remembered thinking: "The man's crazy. He looks determined. He thinks it's really going in!"

It did, the breath-taking buzzer-beating shot sent the game into overtime. DeBusschere fell to the court as if he had been shot. But West and his Laker teammates couldn't keep the Knicks down as DeBusschere and the Knicks got off the floor to post a 111-108 victory.

After his phenomenal shot, West showed he was human in overtime, going 0-for-5. He finished with 34 points (11-of-28 from the field) and nine assists.

A dejected West had difficulty talking about his shot after the game, saying, "It doesn't really matter, does it, because we lost."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • West was the fourth of five children.

  • After leading East Bank High School to the state championship in 1956, fans renamed their town "West" Bank for a day. Every March 24 (the anniversary of the state title) since, East Bank Consolidated High changes its name to "West" Bank to honor their star player.

  • In 1959, as a junior, West tied the NCAA five-game tournament record of 160 points. He led all scorers and rebounders in every West Virginia game, including getting 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 71-70 loss to California in the final.

  • West broke his nose in the first half against Kentucky as a senior. Sucking down air through his mouth and his nose stuffed with gauze, he still scored 19 in the second half to lead West Virginia to an upset of the Wildcats on their home floor. His nose bled for three days.

  • With only eight teams in the struggling NBA, West hoped to be drafted by New York, which picked second. When the Minneapolis Lakers selected him with the first choice in 1960, he was "real disappointed." That changed when the Lakers moved to Los Angeles.

  • The Lakers signed West for $15,000.

  • Fred Schaus, who recruited and coached West at West Virginia, served as his coach for his first few seasons with the Lakers.

  • Despite Schaus and West's college exploits, he did not start as a rookie until midseason. During those early days, West wrote, "It was the worst year of my life in basketball."

  • Lakers star Elgin Baylor nicknamed West "Zeke from Cabin Creek." But in the private circle of the Lakers themselves, Baylor nicknamed West "Tweety" since West's voice climbed and chattered when he became overly excited.

  • In spite of the struggles as a rookie (he averaged a career-low 17.6 points), West played in his first All-Star Game. He came off the bench and scored nine points in 25 minutes as the West routed the East 153-131 in 1961.

  • As a rookie with a bad cold, he learned Baylor would not play due to the flu. Not telling anyone about his own condition, he played all 48 minutes, scored 38 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and helped down Wilt Chamberlain and Philadelphia 126-116.

  • Despite a 36-43 record his rookie season, the Lakers made the playoffs. In the deciding fifth game of the Lakers' Western Division semifinal win over Detroit, West scored 25 despite having a tooth knocked out.

  • On Jan. 17, 1962, West again ignored a terrible cold to nail the Knicks for 63 points, then the most in the NBA for a guard.

  • West and Baylor became the first two players on one team to score more than 2,000 points apiece in the same season (1964-65).

  • In the 1965 Western Division finals against the Baltimore Bullets, West, with Baylor sidelined with a severe knee injury, scored 49, 52, 44, 48, 43 and 42 points to lead the Lakers into the NBA Finals.

  • During the championship 1971-1972 season, which featured the 33-game winning streak, a superstitious West sported shoes so badly worn he had to tape the soles to his toes. That season West led the NBA in assists with 9.7 per game.

  • The Lakers made the playoffs all 14 of his years.

  • Often compared to Oscar Robertson, West made the NBA All-First Defensive Team four times. (It wasn't until the 1968-69 season, West's ninth in the league, that the NBA began selecting all-Defensive teams.) Robertson never had that honor.

  • Leaving the court in 1974, West was the only player in NBA history to be named to play in every All-Star Game in each season of his career. He averaged 13.3 points in 12 games.

  • The silhouette in the NBA logo is that of West.

  • In his Bel Air home, West displays only his 1960 Olympic gold medal, a teammates' painting of him and the ball that he scored his 25,000th point.

  • West is married to former Pepperdine cheerleader Karen Bua, whom he married in 1978. He has five sons, two from this marriage and three from his first.

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