LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A subdued Jerry West spoke with CBS Los Angeles’ Jim Hill about his longstanding friendship with former Lakers teammate Elgin Baylor, whose death was announced Monday.
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“Obviously when I found out about it this morning, I think I was stunned,” a somber West said via Zoom. “But as the day has gone on and more and more people who knew how much I loved this guy and how much I respected him, it has gotten more difficult, I will tell you.”
West was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers with the second overall pick in 1960 — shortly before the team relocated to Los Angeles — joining the team two years after Baylor, who was 1958’s first overall pick.
“I remember when I came to Los Angeles — you know, young, naive — and for some reason, we had this almost immediate relationship in how he kind of cared for me and very much like a brother telling me how to get across the stream you take this rock and this rock and this rock,” West said. “And then when the team started to really get some recognition and start winning games, just to be on the same court with someone I idolized, can you imagine sitting in the locker room and after a few years I’m on an All-Pro team and I’m looking over there and I’m sitting looking at someone I idolized and I get to play with everyday — very special.”
But their bond went beyond basketball.READ MORE: 'I Hope Paradise Is As You Remember It;' Boy George, Cher, Stephen Fry React To Death Of Meat Loaf
“He was a prince of a man, never heard him really say derogatory things about anyone,” West said. “When there’s times as players, sometimes there’s things that just make you so angry that being competitive you want to lash out, he never did that.”
“And sitting in the locker room with him after horrible losses, and particularly when we were trying to win a championship for the city of Los Angeles, no one will ever have the chance to share a relationship as long as I had with him and to feel those awful thoughts about losing when you just want to once win,” West continued. “And I think the last thing that I would say about playing with him, it’s rare today that two players, and two players who were All-Star players for a number of years, stay together today and that builds an even closer bond with a player. But if you’re around him, you couldn’t help but like him. You just couldn’t not.”
West also said that playing with Baylor and his other teammates, he learned a lot about race and racism.
“People would be surprised because we didn’t travel after the games, we would end up, there would probably be about five or six people in one room, either playing cards and stuff or talking,” he said. “And some of the things we talked about, I had heard and I saw as a kid and I really couldn’t understand how people could treat people, anyone, much less a minority, and what a proud man he was.”
Baylor is survived by his wife, Elaine; children Krystal, Alison and Alan; and sister, Gladys Baylor Barrett.MORE NEWS: Juzang Scores 28 As No. 9 UCLA Holds Off Utah, 63-58
“I feel so sorry for his wife, Elaine, his family, his friends and the people who loved him and admired him,” West said.