| ||LOS ANGELES -- Jerry West remembers how pleased he was when
he learned Wilt Chamberlain was joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
Then, he picked up a newspaper and was sick to his stomach.
The story in the paper said West didn't want Chamberlain as a
He doesn't know where the story came from, but "it was the most
ridiculous thing I've ever read in my life," West said Tuesday
after learning of Chamberlain's death.
To the contrary, he said, it was a momentous day, because "we
had one of the true, great centers."
The Lakers, close but never champions during West's first 11
years with the team, acquired Chamberlain from the Philadelphia
76ers on July 9, 1968.
The title both yearned for finally came four years later,
capping a season in which the Lakers won an NBA-record 33 straight
"The frustration of playing here and not being able to win a
championship had really left me pretty bitter as a player," West
said. "That was the only thing that mattered to me after a while.
I was obsessed with it.
"When I started to play with him, he helped make me a better
player. We seemed to have a real good feel together. All players
are generally judged by the number of championships they won.
Unfortunately, he only won two. Nevertheless, his greatness as a
basketball player can't be questioned."
Both Hall of Famers would retire at the end of the 1972-73
season. Chamberlain became coach of the San Diego Conquistadors
for a year before turning to business and entertainment. West has
been a Lakers executive for nearly two decades.
"One of the things when you got to know him a little bit is he
had a very strong opinion about everything, a very strong opinion
about himself as a player," West said. "I think all of us who
played with him realize the tremendous impact he had.
"I would run into him from time to time; he was one of those
guys who was a nomad. One of the things I admired about him, you
see the players of today, they have the entourages, he was the
common man. He had no problem going places, no problem being
recognized as Wilt Chamberlain."
West recalled being on a team flight to St. Louis on March 2,
1962, and the subject was Chamberlain, then a 25-year-old member of
the Philadelphia Warriors.
"We were talking about Wilt, how he was going to score 100
points in a game real soon," West recalled. "When we got off the
airplane, somebody said, 'Hey, did you hear about Wilt Chamberlain?
He scored 100 points in a game.'
"That's one record that will never be broken, I can assure
|Jerry West on Chamberlain: "His greatness as a basketball player can't be questioned."|| |
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