"One of the things he has beaten is his depressions," says Schaus. "It used to be a big problem for Jerry. He'd miss two or three shots and he'd start to press. He'd get down on himself—never on anybody else, or even the officials—but his depressions would last as long as a week or 10 days. Once I was really concerned. He'd been moping around for I don't know how long and we had a game with Holy Cross coming up that was going to be on national television. Two days before the game I had George King take him to lunch, but George couldn't find out a thing. When the game started we controlled the tip and quickly got the ball downcourt to Jerry for an easy layup. He missed it. I almost died. Right there on the bench I almost died. I thought we were finished for sure. But then, hardly before you knew it, he straightened himself out. I don't remember how many points he scored, but it was plenty and we won. I've since quit worrying about his moods. His high school coach told me, and it's always been true—Jerry never has two bad games in a row."
Invariably, when it comes time to assay Jerry West's rank among what are glowingly referred to as the NBA's "super stars," a comparison with Robertson is launched. Robertson is two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than West, and it is generally accepted that he has developed more skills to the ultimate than any player the game has known. West's size, however, is deceiving. He is 6 feet 3, 185 pounds, about average for a backcourt player in the NBA, but he has exceptional wingspread—81 inches from fingertip to fingertip when standing like a crucifix against a wall in Lou Mohs's office. Mohs has a thing about wingspread and measures everybody who comes into the office, taking special delight when a sports-writer needs a yardstick in both hands to reach the wall marks of some of his players. "Jerry has the reach of a player 6 foot 9 or 10," says Mohs admiringly.
When West first came to the Lakers he was more or less a one-handed shooter; opposing guards played him a full step to his right. But he has worked out that weakness in long lonely hours on the court. He has the quickest shot in the game—it takes no more than half a pick to get him free. He moves exceptionally well without the ball—better, in fact, than Robertson, "but then again," says one coach, "Oscar always has the ball." Because of his speed West makes everything look rather routine. Against Robertson in the first half of the recent All-Star Game at St. Louis, he made a full head-and-shoulder fake to the left, crossed over with his left leg and suddenly had a step and a half on Os car—and sank his shot. It looked almost too simple.
"You never really stop West," says the Celtics' Red Auerbach. "You try any number of ways—play him close, loose, keep him away from the ball, and even then he'll get his 25 or 30 points."
"From a coach's view," says San Francisco's Alex Hannum, "Oscar does the right thing more often, but in some phases I now believe West is superior to Robertson. He creates many problems for a defense, and he is more exciting because of the increased range of his long shot."
There is one intangible that nobody talks much about because it is hard to judge accurately, or even to judge at all. West seems to have a more settling influence on his team; he is not, like Robertson, a complainer. He does not bait officials. In all his years at West Virginia and with the Lakers, he had not drawn a technical foul until December, 1963. Robertson has been called eight times as a pro. (It is also true, of course, that Red Auerbach complains all the time, and Boston has won six NBA titles in a row.)
West says, "If I were a coach, I'd take Robertson. He's a better passer and a better dribbler. He has bigger hands and his ball handling is better. He has quicker reactions. He's unbelievable."
To David West, of course, Jerry West's skills are so unbelievable that he doesn't even know what they are.