I really enjoyed this book. It’s essentially about Jerry West and specifically about his role in two different NBA seasons – 1971-72 as a member of the Laker team that set the all-time record for wins in a season (since broken twice) and the all-time record of 33 games in a row (that still stands and perhaps always will), and 2016-17 as a member of the front office of the Golden State Warriors, a team that some consider among the best ever. The book switches back and forth between the two seasons and gives both a historical account and West’s comments.
I’m not the biggest NBA fan in the world, but I devoured this book. I actually read West’s autobiography several years ago (West on West), which was a horrible book and showed him to be petty, selfish, and enormously bitter. This, however, shows some of that but also deals very well with what drives him and also shows how in his long NBA career he’s considered one of the best ever both as a player and as a front office guy. He has an uncanny ability to judge talent and put together a team. And his playing career obviously speaks for itself.
I probably enjoyed the parts about the ’71-’72 Lakers more than the stories about the Warriors. I actually remember watching the game that ended the 33-game winning streak – the Milwaukee Bucks, the defending champs and a team that had Kareem and Oscar Robertson on it, ended it – on a Sunday. Those were the days when CBS showed one game a week on Sunday afternoons – The NBA Game of the Week. I was eight years old and I loved watching those games (especially if we were at my grandma’s house in Kokomo and there was absolutely NOTHING else to do – we went there about once/month). If you’re my age or older, you might remember the CBS song that played before every game:
You’ll see the best in basketball on CBS (CBS!)
When you watch the NBA on CBS (CBS!)
On CBS (CBS!)
Those same teams met in the Western Conference Finals. Pretty amazing matchup when you consider it – the Bucks of Kareem and Robertson against the Lakers of Wilt and West. That’s an amazing assemblage of NBA royalty. I was always a HUGE Jabbar fan, so even while reading the book I was rooting for the Bucks.
The parts about the Warriors are very good too, but honestly, they come across as pretty smug and superior, and reading about them makes me lean more toward the Cavs if they meet again.
Bottom line, I recommend the book. If you’re a sports fan, and especially if you like the NBA, you’ll really like it. McCallum is a good writer and keeps the reader engaged throughout.