LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Jerry West, the Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer who was the team’s general manager when Kobe Bryant was drafted straight out of high school, says he was “shocked” to hear about Bryant’s death Sunday.
“To hear this news this morning, frankly, at first I was shocked,” said Jerry West, former Lakers general manager. “I really felt like a surrogate father to him … this has been one of the most horrible days of our life.”
West, who has long been known as “The Logo” after the NBA chose his silhouette for its iconic logo, was frequently unable to hold back his emotions during an on-air conversation with CBS2’s Jim Hill.
“The thing that I will share with you is how, to me, the maturity I saw him grow into, I saw him deal with press that was negative at times because he played the game with a flair, and anytime you play the game with a flair you’re susceptible to making mistakes,” said West. “I was his biggest supporter but I had some very serious talks with him.”
For all his achievements on the hardwood, it was Bryant’s growth off the court that West says is what made him the most proud of the 18-time All-Star and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008.
“It was truly inspiring for me to see this, who lived in a world of testosterone as all athletes do, for him to be able to separate the athletic accomplishments with his personal accomplishments….this was a brave kid,” he said.