Jerry West Was Hospitalized After Signing Shaq and Kobe in LA

More details continue to emerge about Jerry West’s fascinating career and life, as the NBA great does press for his book. Here’s the latest, via a Q&A with the LA Times: “A parallel example is that you reveal in the book you were hospitalized for exhaustion after finalizing the acquisition of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 1996. ‘It got very discouraging — there were so many obstacles along the way, it was a long, drawn-out thing — but [Lakers owner] Jerry Buss said, ‘Let’s keep going.’ It was easier then, because there weren’t a lot of people around [in the front office]. It became a quest. We felt it was important to rejuvenate our franchise.’ Kobe Bryant worked out for you at Inglewood High that year, with the great defender Michael Cooper guarding him. At the end, you said, ‘I’ve seen enough.’ What did you see? ‘Drafting high school players that high back then was not in vogue, but he was such an incredibly talented kid who could not just run fast and jump high . . . it was his joy for the game. He’d die on that court. It was so easy to see that. I felt he’d help us on our quest to get Shaquille, and be a tremendous piece — the prince in waiting. I remember telling Jerry the night of the draft, ‘We might’ve got the No. 1 player in the draft [at No. 13].’ He is a player for the decades.’ (During this interview, West said his team-building strategy was based on ‘looking for good fits . . . it’s about talent, but [also] how that talent fits together, judging how the talent will mature.’ He said he retains ‘a special spot in my heart’ for former coach Pat Riley, who led the team to four titles in the Magic Johnson-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era.)”