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Jerry West demands apology, retraction from HBO’s ‘Winning Time’

Basketball legend Jerry West has demanded an apology and retraction over his portrayal in the HBO show “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” alleging “a baseless and malicious assault” on his character in the series. 

In a letter obtained by The Hill on Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based Miller Barondess LLP law firm made the demand to network executives and “Winning Time” producer Adam McKay.

West’s attorneys allege that the show portrays the former Los Angeles Lakers star “as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,” that bears no resemblance to the real West.

One of West’s attorneys, Miller Barondess LLP partner Skip Miller, said in a statement that West’s characterization on the show has “caused great distress” for West 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,” Miller continued.

“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.”

In the letter, West’s attorneys included statements from former Lakers players and employees such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and current Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak, who deny that they ever saw West drink in the office or otherwise act in the negative way they say he is portrayed in the series.

“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, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, said in his statement. “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.”

“Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which premiered on HBO last month, is based on Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers,” which chronicles the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers dynasty, often referred to as the “Showtime Lakers,” from its rise to its eventual end.

West, nicknamed “The Logo” due to his silhouette being used in the league’s logo, served as the general manager for the Lakers during the 1980s, helping construct a team that won five league championships in that decade. 

West’s attorneys asked for a retraction no later than two weeks after the letter was received. They said that their client is also due an apology and damages from the network and show producers because they said the series seeks to criticize West rather than highlighting his accomplishments as a team executive.

The Hill has reached out to HBO for comment and more information.

Updated at 11:33 a.m.

Tags Adam McKay California HBO HBO HBO HBO Max Jerry West Jerry West Jerry West Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angeles Los Angeles Lakers Los Angeles Lakers Los Angeles Lakers Miller Barondess LLP NBA Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty
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