Sports serve many purposes in our lives.  They teach us about teamwork and discipline, about the importance of working hard and the joy of being physically fit.  For many, sports serve as a competitive outlet and a social outlet as well.  Yet, one purpose not often discussed is the use of sports as a way to escape from a difficult life.

In Runner’s World magazine last month, there was an excellent article in which running icon Frank Shorter discusses his abusive childhood and how he used running as an outlet for his fear and anger.  Incredibly, Frank was able to use these traumatic experiences as a way to better internalize the pain he had to endure as a competitive runner.

Another sports legend who used athletics to escape from a difficult childhood is longtime Laker, Jerry West.  He chose basketball as a way to deal with an abusive father and the loss of a beloved older brother.  Like Frank, Jerry won an Olympic gold medal and then went on to become an NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  The NBA even uses a silhouette of Jerry on its logo.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Jerry about his soon to be released autobiography, “West By West–My Charmed, Tormented Life.”  We discussed many subjects that I feel would be of interest not just to basketball fans, but to lovers of all competitive sports.  Here it is…enjoy.

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