In the early 1970’s, the fact is, ‘Mr. Clutch’ was the first favourite NBA player of this corner …
Jerry West still is a reluctant sports hero
West can best be described as one of the most conflicted legendary sports heroes of our time. He is a man who has had a lifetime of success in nearly all facets and has never been comfortable with that.
Part of that might hark back to the third nickname, the one he likes the least: “Zeke from Cabin Creek.” That was placed on him by other players from bigger cities when he arrived in the NBA in 1960, the second pick of the draft and perhaps a comparative hick. He had been an All-American at West Virginia, and nobody questioned his basketball credentials. Nobody but him, that is.
“I didn’t think I was good enough to play in the pros,” he said back then.
As the second-youngest of six children growing up in the relative poverty of Cheylan, W.Va., and learning his basketball craft mostly alone on muddy outdoor courts with cheap hoops, West couldn’t have been less prepared for something like Los Angeles.
“Cabin Creek was about a mile away,” he said, elaborating with a snapshot of life in the ’50s in a coal mining state. “That’s where we got our mail. I’d run there and back. Maybe that’s why I was in such good shape to play basketball. I remember running past Wade’s Pool Hall on a Saturday morning. You could tell how wild a time the coal miners had had the night before by how many of the windows were broken out.”
While time and increased maturity have succeeded in developing an increased appreciation for the outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the game of terrific players like, e.g. The Great Bill Russell, the ‘Big O’, Kareem, Dr. J, the ‘Moutain Man’, Magic & Bird [because they will forever be linked together], Isiah, MJ, Hakeem, Duncan, etc., it can never overshadow what it meant to these young eyes, late at night, watching on a grainy black & white TV a certain player, wearing #44, who just kept hitting big shot after big shot, in an effort to help his team win a rather silly game, played the Right Way, in short pants with a round ball and an elevated basket.
Although time marches on … you can never ever replace THAT.