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2017 NBA Playoffs

Getting a read on the Warriors’ David West

The Golden State forward is passionate about African-American history, books and playing for that elusive championship

(Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 19, 2017.)

David West sat in the Golden State Warriors’ locker room stunned by what he had read.

It wasn’t the box score of the Warriors’ 36-point blowout of his former team, the San Antonio Spurs, in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Nor was it something that outspoken Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said to the media afterward. Rather, a still-in-uniform West talked about The Atlantic article he read earlier in the day, My Family’s Slave, about a Filipino woman who was a modern-day slave in the United States for 56 years.

“Somebody sent me that Atlantic article, so I’ve been blowing through that all day,” the 6-foot-9, 250-pound West told The Undefeated.

West doesn’t watch much television. The two-time NBA All-Star prefers to read stories about history, politics and African-American culture online or in his library of historical books that date to the 1890s. The 36-year-old forward talked to The Undefeated about his love of history, books, the need for more positive stories about black families, Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and what it would mean to win a championship with the Warriors.

What do you love to read?

It just depends on what I’m feeling … I usually start the morning with whatever the headlines are. Then if I got a book or something that I’m reading, I might dibble and dabble into that. I usually start my morning with whatever y’all got on that Undefeated, all of them, The Atlantic … I read those on a daily basis. If I get a newspaper in front of me, I’ll read it. But it’s mostly online [articles] with what is happening, keeping up with what is happening on both sides politically. I like things that make me think.

Do political or race stories entertain you?

All of it. I haven’t really got into listening to podcasts. Whatever is available for me to consume, I consume.

How much time a day do you spend reading?

It just depends. Probably at least three to four hours a day. That’s where I spend my free time. I don’t really watch TV like that. I spend my free time just reading.

How many books do you own?

I can’t count. I got a lot. A lot. I have, man. I got books. I just got books.

Do you own over 1,000 books?

I don’t know if I own over 1,000. I’m trying to think if I could put a range on it. I don’t know. A lot.

What are the typical books in your library?

History. African-American history. African history. Yeah, that’s my wheelhouse.

What book is your prized possession?

Yeah, some of my grandfather’s books. Those are my [favorites]. When he passed and we were cleaning out the house, I just decided that we were going to grab his books. He has some original print old stuff. I got one of the very first slave narratives when they were interviewing some of the last slaves and descendants of slaves. He had one of those original books. He had some of the original J.A. Rogers stuff. J.A. Rogers is one of the founders of African studies in this country.

“[My grandfather] had a couple of those old-time hymnal books. My grandfather was born in 1911. My grandmother, 1905. I think I have one book that was printed in 1890-something. It’s called Protest. It’s literally almost dry rot. I just keep it by itself. It’s one of the older ones and it’s talking about protests and what went on in the South during Reconstruction. It’s not the civil rights movement. Just sort of the Reconstruction and how things were put together.

How did you get into reading?

I just wanted to be informed, man. And once I got diving into African studies a little bit before college … my year in military school, we didn’t have TV and radio. I figured out how to open a book and get what you need in the text. That’s when it started. I just liked being informed.

How did getting information and articles on the phone change the way you read?

Constant. That’s the biggest thing right now. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to go get it. But if someone seeks information and wants to be in the know, you can find out what you want to know immediately. My wife gets on me because sometimes I just go through articles and just read. If I find a good thread or a good article, I will find other articles that they’ve written. I just like to consume information.

I know you’re a big fan of The Undefeated, which is celebrating its first birthday. What do you like about the website?

Just the stories. It’s actually sports from the periphery, which is kind of what I like. You sort of get a different perspective even though you know it’s around sports even though it’s not focusing on it.

It’s the right time for stuff like that to give a different perspective. To give people another source of information. For a lot of years, the only thing that was coming out of sports was sports. I’m not going to personally attack anybody. But sometimes that whole narrative that [blacks] come from single-parent households, that s— is boring, man. It’s boring. The truth is, a lot of us don’t come from that. That seems like the narrative, the commonality. ‘He came from this. … He struggled, man.’ Getting different perspectives …

I’m waiting on someone to [write] something on [former NBA player] Grant Hill. Even though he got hurt, he came from a family that was well-to-do, he still traveled this journey like some of those who didn’t have those options. He still traveled his journey. There are not enough stories about people like that.

Your Warriors are going to San Antonio for two playoff games, starting with Game 3 on Saturday. What should the Warriors expect?

It’s Game 3. You know how it is. With fans, that arena is going to be jammed. We know we have to get ourselves in the mode to take care of the basketball. We have to come out and try to grind out a road win. It’s not going to be easy.

What was it like playing for San Antonio last season?

It’s good, man. I enjoyed my time there. It was a lifelong dream of mine. David Robinson was my favorite player growing up. Then Tim [Duncan] became my favorite player. The Spurs were my favorite team when I was growing up. It was a good experience for me.

Do you expect Kawhi Leonard to return from his ankle injury for the Spurs on Saturday?

I know he is going to be out there. He is going to try to be aggressive. He’s a tough dude, man. He has the right mind in terms of wanting to be the guy but trying to do it the right way. He still knows he has a group of teammates to depend on.

What has it been like playing for the Warriors?

It’s been great. I enjoy the environment, the guys and the type of edge that they play with. We sort of created this identity around our defense. Obviously, our offense is spectacular. But our focus every game is our defense. We come out with an aggressive defensive mindset.

What would it mean for you to finally win an NBA title this season?

Everything. Everything.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.