Jerry West has seen “Winning Time” on HBO, and he’s not happy.
The former Los Angeles Lakers executive officially demanded a retraction and an apology from HBO and executive producer Adam McKay on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. West called his portrayal in the show, which is currently airing weekly on HBO, a "a baseless and malicious assault” on his character.
His lawyers said that "Winning Time falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic," and that it "bears no resemblance to the real man.”
"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," Skip Miller, one of West’s attorneys, told ESPN. "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."
“Winning Time” is not a documentary, but rather a “dramatization” of Lakers teams during the 1980s. It’s based on the book, "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s" by Jeff Pearlman, and stars John C. Reilly and Sally Field, among others. Jerry West is played by Jason Clarke.
West spent three seasons leading the Lakers as a coach before moving into the front office — where he stayed for nearly two decades.
“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,” his attorneys said, via ESPN. “This is a fabrication. You depict Jerry as a clueless bumpkin-wearing a fishing hat to practice, which also never happened- rather than a dedicated and capable GM.
"You omit any reference to Jerry being one of the most accomplished and well-regarded NBA executives in history. Instead, you degrade him by exaggerating his urging the Lakers not to draft Magic Johnson. 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."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also slams ‘Winning Time’
West isn’t alone in his criticism of the show.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joined him on Tuesday in a new blog post, in which he called the show both “deliberately dishonest” and “drearily dull.”
“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. Amusement park portraits that emphasize one physical feature to amplify your appearance—but never touching the essence."
Abdul-Jabbar — who played for the Lakers from 1975-89, nearly all of it under West’s leadership, and is portrayed in the show by Solomon Hughes — also came to West’s defense in a statement to ESPN.
"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 said, via ESPN. "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."