The core torment is this: There should have been more, and West knew it all along. "Those winter nights as a kid," he says, "playing until your fingers cracked and bled. Dreaming. Winning the game with a last-second shot, being somebody you could look up to. All those things came true for me, everything happened except one thing, and that's winning a championship. And I thought I had the ability to do something like that. I thought I was gifted with greater skills. I thought I was responsible. I've often wondered what my life would have been like if we'd won."
He means, won all the time. If you remember West at the end of a close game, you remember a man demanding the ball. They called him Mr. Clutch for the way he took charge. It wasn't because he wanted the two points—nobody has ever heard him discuss his scoring—but because he wanted and expected the win. West was enslaved by his own greatness, doomed by his own dreams, haunted by responsibilities nobody else in the game has ever shouldered. He suffers them still, pacing outside in the Forum parking lot, the din of the game now distant, ticking off defeat after defeat, each one his fault. You imagine he promises the California night air, it won't happen again.