Former Xavier, NBA player David West finds his future in academia

WCPo david west.png
Posted at 3:55 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 20:05:56-05

If David West ever reads this story, he’s likely reading something else at the same time.

“Just last semester, with the books in school and my own private reading, I’m probably going through two to four books at a time," he said. "And I’m generally finishing a couple books a week."

David West’s future plans lie in the past. He’s in the second semester of pursuing a Master's degree in African American history at North Carolina Central University.

“Black history challenges the American mythology around history,” West said. “What I’ve learned is Black history, African-American history, African history, those histories are simply the missing pages of world history.”

The idea of immersing himself in academia would have been foreign to him not too long ago, he added. West says he didn’t finish his first book until a post-graduate year at Hargrave Military Academy. Without television or a telephone, West opened “Think Black” by Frank McQuilkin, a small book he had taken from his grandfather’s bookshelf.

The journey began there but traveled with him to Xavier and then on a 15-year jaunt in the NBA, with two All-Star appearances and two titles with the Golden State Warriors. All along, he was bringing his past with him.

“Because of the NBA, I went on this self-education journey. I was reading books,” West said. “Everyone would ask, 'Where did you get your history master's at? Where did you get your degree in history from?' I felt confident in what I was learning through my own studies, but going back to school is going to help validate everything I’ve learned.”

At NCCU, it’s his knowledge of the past, not knowledge of his past, that’s made him a standout student to Professor Freddie L. Parker.

“This former NBA player has been playing in the vineyard of history,” Parker said. “It’s obvious he’s been reading history for a long time. You just don’t come upon it and have the level of intellect in that regard and be able to display that overnight or having one or two classes. He brings a body of information to the table; he brings experience to the table that no one else in the class does.”

In fact, it was several weeks before West’s classmates knew of his first act in American life as an NBA star.

During one session, a classmate asked West if he was “the” David West that played basketball. West says he could hear her father in the background exclaim, “I told you!”

West’s master’s program is a three-year process. From there, he plans to pursue a doctorate. He’s already written two books and is using his studies at NCCU to become a better writer.

It’s quite the pivot for West. Fittingly, he points to “Reconstruction,” the period of American history between 1865-1877, as the one he’s most fascinated by.

“I got a taste (of history), and I get excited by being introduced to things I don’t know, periods of history I’m not familiar with,” West said