Jerry West reveals lifelong depression

Updated: October 15, 2011, 11:03 PM ET
Associated Press

Jerry West says he has battled depression since childhood, when his father would beat the future Hall of Famer, causing low self-esteem that has plagued him despite a successful career as one of the NBA's biggest influences.

West says his West Virginia childhood was devoid of love and filled with anger as a result of his abusive father, who left him feeling tormented and worthless.

"I would go to bed feeling like I didn't even want to live," West says in a segment airing Tuesday on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."

"I've been so low sometimes and when everyone else would be so high because I didn't like myself."

West's memoir, "West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life," is in stores Wednesday. It's a book his wife, Karen, his five sons and his four siblings didn't want him to write.

In the HBO interview, West describes his father beating him with a belt, saying, "It was brutal."

He says he never knew what would set his father off. It wasn't until his father hit his sister that West found the courage to stand up to the man that had abused him. At 12, West kept a shotgun under his bed and threatened to use it on his father if the abuse didn't end.

When West's father died of a heart attack, he attended the funeral. He cries in the interview as he talks about wondering whether his father would be proud of him and his achievements.

West says his depression never bothered him as a player during 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers because he was so driven by a fear of failure. However, once the season ended, he would dwell on the defeats, including the Lakers' six NBA finals losses to the Boston Celtics.

"He wouldn't speak for days at a time ... It worried me," Karen West says, adding that "Jerry doesn't say `I love you.'... Maybe once a year."

West tells HBO he tried therapy, but gave it up, preferring to take Prozac and work through his depression by himself. He says his condition has eased in the 10 years since he served as Lakers general manager. He now works as an adviser to the Golden State Warriors.

"I'm the luckiest person in the world," he says.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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