HBO responds to Jerry West demanding ‘Winning Time’ retraction: ‘Not a documentary’

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HBO responded Tuesday against criticisms of its sports drama series: “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”

Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were among former Los Angeles Lakers personnel who expressed their displeasure over their depictions in the series, which documents the showtime era of the NBA franchise. West’s lawyers reportedly demanded a retraction over the depiction of West – played by actor Jason Clarke — which allegedly describes him “as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic.” 

“HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from actual facts and events that are fictionalized in part for dramatic purposes. ‘Winning Time’ is not a documentary and has not been presented as such,” HBO said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

HBO responds to Jerry West demanding 'Winning Time' retraction: 'Not a documentary'


HBO responds to Jerry West demanding 'Winning Time' retraction: 'Not a documentary'

Jerry West #44 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on walking up court against the Milwaukee Bucks during an NBA basketball game circa 1972 at the Milwaukee Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
(Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

“However, the series and its depictions are based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing, and HBO stands resolutely behind our talented creators and cast who have brought a dramatization of this epic chapter in basketball history to the screen,” the statement added. 

West was an executive for the Lakers from 1979 to 2000 after serving as a head coach from 1976 to 1979. He was a scout before becoming the team’s general manager at the start of the 1982-83 season. In the 1980s, the Lakers won five championships.

West’s lawyers had asked for a retraction within two weeks of the letter – which was sent last Tuesday – to producer Adam McKay and HBO, ESPN reported. 

HBO responds to Jerry West demanding 'Winning Time' retraction: 'Not a documentary'

This image released by HBO shows Jason Clarke as Jerry West in a scene from "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty."
(HBO via AP)

“The portrayal of NBA icon and L.A. 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,” West’s attorney Skip Miller said in the letter. “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.”

The letter also included support for West from Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper, Jamaal Wilkes and former Lakers employees such as Mitch Kupchak who later became the team’s general manager, according to the outlet.

Abdul-Jabbar took issue with the depiction of West in the series. 

HBO responds to Jerry West demanding 'Winning Time' retraction: 'Not a documentary'

This image released by HBO shows Quincy Isaiah, portraying Magic Johnson, left, and Solomon Hughes, portraying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a scene from the series "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty." 
(Warrick Page/HBO via AP)

“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. “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.”

In a separate SubStack post, Abdul-Jabbar, who was played by Solomon Hughes, criticized the depiction of the main characters on the show, saying they were “reduced to a single bold trait as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers’ comprehension.”


Despite the criticism, “Winning Time” has already been renewed for a second season.

The show is based off the New York Times bestseller “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” by Jeff Pearlman.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report


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