Stationary in his cast, Jerry West would spend what seemed an interminable amount of time in one spot, shooting the same shot over and over, for hours. He had always hoisted one-handed shots and worked to perfect them. Now he stepped up the pace and made the one-hander his primary shot from each spot that he worked. “Then he would move to another position the next night,” Barbara said. “And I’m just convinced that he became a master shooter because of that. Seeing him shoot, one would see the right arm out and the left with his hand under his elbow, lining up everything. He’s so consistent in his shot.”
In 1992 a reporter walked into the Lakers’ preseason training camp at Klum Gym at the University of Hawaii early in the morning, hours before the first session. There was West, well into his fifties, alone on the court shooting shot after shot, delivering one perfect sixteen-footer after another. The ball would settle through the net and hit the floor with just enough spin that it headed back to West. He hardly had to move to retrieve it. Then he began pausing and studying the goal for an unsettling amount of time between shots. Later the reporter asked him why he was studying the basket so intently, and West said, “Because each goal is different. You have to look at it and figure out what’s different about it.” The reporter later figured that West had sighted the goal probably no fewer than two million times since those grade school days, when he first began lofting a ball at a hoop suspended above the dirt outside his home. And here he was, five decades later, pausing and studying again, as if he were seeing something for the first time, discovering something that others simply couldn’t see. Those moments with the goal were the process of West’s lifetime, the essence of his study of every little detail of the game, his mother’s perfectionism at work.