Former Lakers legend Jerry West is reportedly not happy with the way HBO’s new series, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty has portrayed his character. West’s legal team sent a letter to HBO and to the producer of the series, Adam McKay, requesting a backtracking and an apology from the network.
ESPN obtained a copy of the letter from West’s lawyers stating that the show allegedly characterized the West as an uncontrollable, “intoxicated rage-where” which “bears no resemblance to the real man” he is.
The show is based on Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. West, himself, referred to the series as a “baseless and malicious assault” is his character.
Skip Miller, one of West’s lawyers and a partner at Miller Barondess, an LLP law firm, said the show is based on fabrication that attempts to create facts that have “caused great distress to the West and his family.”
“Jerry [West] had nothing but love for and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular owner Dr. Jerry Buss, during an era in which they assembled one of the greatest teams in NBA history, ”the statement said, per ESPN.
In the request to HBO and McKay, West’s lawyers asked that the network send a retraction letter no more than two weeks after receiving the initial letter.
West believes that he deserves an apology, a retraction and damages from the network as well as the producers of the series, saying the show “goes out of its way to denigrate” him “despite his accomplishments as an executive.”
West, whose silhouette functions as the NBA’s logo, played for the Lakers from 1960 to ’74 and earned the NBA Finals MVP honors in ’69, won an NBA championship in ’72 and was a 14-time NBA All-Star from 1961 to ‘ 74. West also coached the franchise from 1976 to ’79 and served as the team’s general manager ahead of the 1982 to ’83 season.
In the series, West’s character argues against drafting Magic Johnson at No. 1 In the 1979 NBA draft, with the real West’s lawyers claiming the series portrays West as having “personal animus” Johnson and that West attempted to “sabotage” Johnson’s decision.
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“Instead of seeing the true Jerry West… anyone who watched the show would be left with the false impression that West is incompetent, that they didn’t want Magic Johnson. This is a fabrication, ”the letter stated.
While HBO issued a disclaimer that the series was a dramatization, West said it doesn’t keep the network from being brought for the allegations.
According to ESPN, HBO has not provided a response to the comments from West’s letter. In addition to sentiments expressed by West, the letter includes statements from former Lakers players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes contradicting the way West was portrayed in the series.
Former employees — Claire Rothman, Charlene Kenney, Bob Steiner and Mitch Kupchak — who worked with the West also rejected the portrayal of the West throwing tantrums and drinking alcoholic beverages in his office.
Abdul-Jabbar wrote a lengthy review about the series in his Substack on Tuesday, saying that it was inaccurate, boring and “lacked humor”, an “immutable sin” that is committed by the show “over and over.”
“Characters The characters are crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people the way Lego Hans Solo resembles Harrison Ford,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “Each character is reduced to a single bold trait as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers’ comprehension. Jerry Buss is Egomaniac Entrepreneur, Jerry West is Crazed Coach, Magic Johnson is Sexual Simpleton, I’m Pompous Prick. They are caricatures, not characters.
“It [the show] never held my interest enough for me to care, let alone be outraged. ”
Rothman wrote in the letter that West treated him with “dignity and respect” while Kupchak described him as “always a professional, even tongue, sincere and never heard him lose his temper with anyone.”
As Abdul-Jabbar stated that the series produces a “compelling, culturally insightful story” but not associating the storyline with one that accurately represents the Winning Time story, West concurs that the show is an “extreme departure from Pearlman’s book and” shows malice in false portrayal. “
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