Lakers legend Jerry West is not too pleased with his portrayal in the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. He and his lawyers published a letter demanding a retraction by HBO and a public apology.
“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.”
Actor Jason Clarke plays West in the fictional series all about the Showtime era of the Lakers throughout the ‘80s. West calls Clarke’s “baseless” portrayal of him “a deliberately false characterization.” Bad news for Jerry: The series has been renewed for a second season.
He’s not the only one who’s shared negative sentiments about the portrayal of the former head coach. Yesterday, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared his two cents about West’s depiction in the series via a Substack blog post.
“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.”
The full statement from Skip Miller, Jerry West’s attorney, follows:
“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.
“HBO’s characterization of Jerry is so egregious and cruel that a number of former Lakers players, executives and associates—some who are also portrayed in the series and worked directly with him for many years—have weighed in:
- Michael Cooper, former Laker forward who worked closely with Jerry West as Special Assistant to the General Manager.
- Jamaal Wilkes, four-time NBA champion and former Laker forward.
- Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte Hornets President who played for the Lakers and worked for Jerry when he was Lakers General Manager.
- Frank Mariani, Lakers owner Dr. Buss’s longtime business partner.
- Claire L. Rothman, one of Dr. Buss’s closest associates who ran operations at The Forum for 20 years.
- Bob Steiner, former director of public relations for the Lakers, LA Kings and The Forum, as well as personal assistant to Dr. Buss.
- Charline Kenney, Dr. Buss’s executive secretary, who worked in the office with Jerry for 20 years.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played for Jerry as his coach and also worked with Jerry in the Lakers front office.
“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.”