HBO’s TV drama “Winning Time” continues to draw ire from members of the Los Angeles Lakers’ “Showtime” teams.
The show tells the story of the Showtime era, based on Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” However, players portrayed in the series — such as Magic Johnson — were skeptical of the accuracy of the 1980s Lakers’ representation without input from those who were part of the organization.
Johnson also said he wasn’t looking forward to watching “Winning Time” ahead of its March premiere. Meanwhile, Jerry West has accused the show of “a deliberately false mischaracterization” and requested an apology and a retraction from HBO and the producers, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne:
“The portrayal of NBA icon and LA Lakers legend Jerry West in ‘Winning Time’ is fiction pretending to be fact — a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family,” said Skip Miller, a partner at the Miller Barondess LLP law firm in Los Angeles and attorney for West. “Contrary to the baseless portrayal in the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love for and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular owner Dr. Jerry Buss, during an era in which he assembled one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
“Jerry West was an integral part of the Lakers and NBA’s success. It is a travesty that HBO has knowingly demeaned him for shock value and the pursuit of ratings. As an act of common decency, HBO and the producers owe Jerry a public apology and at the very least should retract their baseless and defamatory portrayal of him.”
In the letter, West’s lawyers took an issue with scenes showing the former Lakers general manager commit rage-fueled acts and drink alcohol in his office, adding such details that did not appear in Pearlman’s book. They also claimed that “Winning Time” implies West tried to talk the Lakers out of drafting Johnson:
“So instead of seeing the true Jerry West — a brilliant GM who was the architect of one of the great NBA dynasties — anyone who watched the show would be left with the false impression that West is incompetent, that he didn’t want Magic Johnson. This is a fabrication,” the letter says.
“Contrary to the show, the book leaves readers with the true impression of Jerry as a brilliant and thoughtful GM. Your extreme departure from the book shows malice in your false portrayal.”
The letter included statements from members of the Showtime Lakers, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mitch Kupchak, supporting West’s claims. West’s lawyers requested a retraction two weeks from the date HBO received their letter.
Earlier in April, the network announced earlier “Winning Time” has been renewed for another season.
Abdul-Jabbar says ‘Winning Time’ characters are ‘caricatures’ of Showtime legends
Abdul-Jabbar has also come out with public disapproval of the portrayal of the Showtime Lakers in “Winning Time.” The legendary center wrote on his substack that “the characters are crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people the way Lego Hans Solo resembles Harrison Ford.”
He added each character was reduced to a single TV-worthy trait. “They are caricatures, not characters. Amusement park portraits that emphasize one physical feature to amplify your appearance—but never touching the essence,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.
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