'A Pulpy Soap Opera': Jerry West And Co. Blast 'Winning Time' Over NBA Legend's Portrayal
Jerry West has issued a challenge.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend known as "The Logo" is threatening legal action against the HBO drama series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty claiming his portrayal is "a deliberately false characterization," according to Variety.
West and his legal team sent a letter to executive producer Adam McKay and HBO's parent company, Warner Bros.-Discovery, on April 19 saying the series has "caused great distress to Jerry and his family." His team is demanding a legal retraction within two weeks, Variety reports.
Played by Jason Clarke in the series, West is part of a narrative that follows the Lakers during the "Showtime" era in the 1980s. The show portrays "Showtime era stars Earvin "Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and front office leaders such as Jerry Buss, Pat Riley, and West.
West is portrayed as a fiery leader irritated by several NBA Finals losses as a player, according to Variety.
“You took a happy and super successful Lakers era and turned it into a pulpy soap opera,” reads the letter. “You depicted the people in a false light, not at all who they are, to garner ratings and make money.”
In the letter, there's also comments from Claire Rothman and Abdul-Jabbar, who are portrayed in the series by Gaby Hoffmann and Solomon Hughes, respectively, Variety reports.
HBO did not immediately respond to Variety for comment.
Before West sent the letter, Abdul-Jabbar criticized Winning Time on his blog.
“Instead of exploring his issues with compassion as a way to better understand the man, they turn him into a Wile E. Coyote cartoon to be laughed at,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “He never broke golf clubs, he didn’t throw his trophy through the window. Sure, those actions make dramatic moments, but they reek of facile exploitation of the man rather than exploration of character.”
Skip Miller, West's attorney, issued a statement that included the following:
“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. 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.”