Lunch With The Logo
Jerry West takes center stage at Los Angeles fundraiser.
The scene was essentially set. One of the more exclusive country clubs in Los Angeles was set to host a fundraiser earlier this week—on Tuesday to be exact—and one of the more exclusive names in the NBA was set to headline the benefit. It was a match made in heaven.
Lunch with the Logo had all the makings of a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of those who were in attendance. More than a few onlookers appeared in awe, jaws seemingly dropped to the floor below with regularity, to be in the presence of someone such as Jerry West.
Apparently, the opportunity doesn’t come around very often nowadays.
The event lived up to the advanced billing, of course. And then some. From the second the Hall of Famer stepped foot into the posh private room at the hoity-toity Wilshire Country Club, all eyes and ears of the guests were focused in on him.
Following an early lunch, or late breakfast, depending on the eating habits of the exclusive 100-person guest list, West spoke rather candidly about a number of different topics, most notably being The Harold Pump Foundation.
It was, after all, the reason he was so willing to give up some of his free time. The cause was worthy indeed. The masterminds behind the fundraiser were Dana and David Pump. Born and bred in Southern California, the brothers started the foundation, along with mother Carole, in an effort to honor their late father who lost his fight with cancer back in 1999.
All along, the ultimate goal of the Pump family has been to create awareness, by establishing treatment programs, and helping to find a cure for this terrible disease. The Harold Pump Foundation has raised more than $4.6 million to support the fight against cancer.
“To have Jerry West on board with The Pump Foundation, is a great honor,” Dana Pump said. “Over the years, David and I have become close with Jerry. He is such a giver. Always willing to help out. For us to be able to bring members of the community together and have Jerry share some of his many stories is a memory many people will treasure for a long time to come.”
In addition to talking about his connection with the Pumps, West also was particularly forthcoming about his new book, West by West, which reveals his once unknown troubled past growing up in West Virginia. Among the many other conversational points were Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, the Los Angeles Lakers and the lockout. Here is a look at the highlights:
SLAM: Talk about The Harold Pump Foundation and your role. How did you get involved?
Jerry West: I have known Dana and David for a while now. They have been fun people in my life and people I have good time with. They will always be friends. Both know so many people and their charity work is something that is obviously important to me. They do many good things in this community, and to honor their father, that’s something special in my book. Anytime you can help and give back, it’s a must as far as I’m concerned. I think a fundraiser like this is really going to help some less fortunate people out there. It’s very gratifying and worthwhile to be here and be a part of the The Harold Pump Foundation event, especially given my history in Los Angeles.
SLAM: What’s it like being back in your old stomping grounds, so to speak?
JW: This is unique place, I feel like I’ve grown up here, lived most of my adult life here anyway. It has been an incredible experience for me. I never really left Los Angeles though, maybe for five years I did. I still have my house here. I have a lot of friendships that have been maintained over time. The city has been great to me. People have been unbelievably nice to me. I feel like I have an obligation to give back in some respect.
SLAM: Sticking with the whole Lakers theme, you mentioned some things about spending time with Wilt Chamberlain earlier. What was that like?
JW: He was unique. A character. A great player. But there was more to Wilt than just basketball. He was a friend. Someone I have very fond memories of. I remember one time we where in Kansas City. He invited me up to his room for dinner, and as you know, they have good Bar-B-Q food in that city. There was Wilt, sitting with a big lab of ribs. Quite a few big slabs of ribs. More than enough for a few people. He had coleslaw and potato salad too, just about everything you could imagine. He asked if I was hungry and wanted to join him. I told him, No thank you—that I already ate. Well, he proceeded to eat everything in sight. I had never seen anything like it. I proceeded to think about how Wilt was going to be able to play in our upcoming game after that meal. He went out and scored more than 20 points and had more than 20 rebounds. Again, he was unique.
SLAM: Real quick, who do you think is one of the best all-time players and why?
JW: I’d have to say Michael Jordan is right up there. He was skilled. He made things look so effortless. When he was on top of his game, no one was better. I have seen a lot of great players come and go during my days, but Michael Jordan was in a class of his own. He truly was.
SLAM: Fast forward to the future, if you will. In terms of the lockout, any ideas on what happens next?
JW: Things are going to be different this year, crammed together. There won’t be a normal training camp or free-agency period because of the circumstances and the agreement that is now in place. You’re going to see a lot of activity here in the next few days. Teams are going to start building their respective teams. It’s going to be a busy year for the executives in the front office, that’s for sure.
SLAM: How about a prediction—How do you think things will play out?
JW: There will be some nights where the schedule catches up to teams. But I think the veteran groups will have an advantage and the Lakers are going to have a great year. Out here in the West, there’s plenty of competition, so it’s going to be interesting. I think you’ll see the same teams there in the end, similar to last season. Should be a great season, everyone is excited about it.
SLAM: What was your goal when you sat down to write your book?
JW: I felt like I needed to share my story. The hope was that it would help someone out there. I have had many people respond with letters and emails. I have had some tremendous support, more so than I ever thought. It has been overwhelming at times, the positive feedback I have received has been amazing. Many people faced similar challenges that I encountered growing up. It is amazing to think about the number of individuals out there who have lived through some of the same things that I dealt with in the past. I think the book made a lasting impact on me as well as others.
SLAM: Mr. West, it has been a pleasure. Thank you for the time.
JW: You’re welcome. I hope I was helpful in some way.
SLAM: More than you’ll ever know, sir. Given your legacy, both on and off the court, I think the entire basketball community would agree.
JW: I think of myself as a regular guy, really no different from anyone else. I’ve had some different experiences, yes. But at at the end of the day, it’s important to give back and I’m more than happy to do so. That’s why I’m here today supporting The Harold Pump Foundation.