Lakers legend Jerry West demands retraction from HBO's 'Winning Time'

Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West claims that his portrayal in HBO's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is "deliberately false." File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
1 of 5 | Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West claims that his portrayal in HBO's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is "deliberately false." File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West believes his portrayal in the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is "cruel" and "deliberately false" and demands a retraction, his attorney said in a statement.

"The portrayal of NBA icon and Los Angeles 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," attorney Skip Miller said.


"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 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


West and Miller sent a 46-page letter to HBO, which was obtained by UPI, to demand the retraction within two weeks. Several former NBA players and executives provided statements of support that were included in the letter.

"It is a travesty that HBO has knowingly demeaned him for shock value and the pursuit of ratings," Miller said. "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."

The drama series, which premiered March 6, chronicles the NBA franchise's rise into a dynasty in the 1980s. West is first depicted as a Lakers player and later transitions into a coach and front office executive.

Miller said the series portrays West as an "out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic."

Actor Jason Clarke portrays West is the series, which was produced by Adam McKay. John C. Reilly portrays Buss. Adrien Brody, Jason Segel, Sally Field, Quincy Isaiah and Michael Chiklis are among the other actors in the show.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are among other NBA legends who are portrayed. Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson previously spoke out against Winning Time, which is based on the book Showtime by Jeff Pearlman.


"The characters are crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people the way Lego Hans Solo resembles Harrison Ford," Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a blog post, published Tuesday. "Each character is reduced to a single bold trait as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers' comprehension."

Abdul-Jabbar called the characterizations "bland." He also said the series portrayed West as a "crazed coach," Buss as an "egomaniac entrepreneur" and others as "caricatures, not characters."

Johnson told Variety that he had no interest in watching the series. He also said HBO did not ask him or his former Lakers teammates to participate in production.

"First of all, you can't do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers," Johnson said. "The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys. There's no way to duplicate 'Showtime.' I don't care who you get."

West's lawyers said HBO's "disclaimer" that the series is a dramatization does not insulate the network from liability.

West, 83, was an All-Star in each season during his 14-year NBA tenure. The point guard spent his entire career with the Lakers.

The Lakers went to the NBA Finals nine times with West on the roster, but claimed just one title (1971-72). West averaged 27 points, 6.7 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game.


He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

West, who coached the Lakers from 1976-77 through 1978-79, went on to win eight titles as an executive. He worked as a scout and general manager from 1979 through 2000 with the Lakers.

He went on to work in the front office for the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. West currently serves as an executive board member for the Clippers.

The "Showtime" Lakers won five NBA titles from 1979-80 through 1987-88.

The next episode of Winning Time will air at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday. HBO announced earlier this month that it had renewed the series for a second season.

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