Jerry West Says He'll Take HBO's 'Winning Time' to Supreme Court If Necessary

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Jerry West - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.04.2022
Jerry West was a player for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1960s and an NBA executive for various teams since 1982. His silhouette is used for the NBA logo, which has earned him the post-playing career nickname “The Logo”.
Former NBA player Jerry West is not happy with his portrayal in HBO’s new series Winning Time, a fictionalised and sensationalised look at the Showtime Lakers, an era from 1979 to 1991 when the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy dominated the league and won five championships. Jerry West was the Lakers general manager starting in the 1982-83 season, staying in that position until the end of the 1999-2000 season.
West, 83, has sent a letter through his lawyers demanding a retraction, an apology, and compensation for damages due to the way he was portrayed in the HBO miniseries.
Today the Los Angeles Times is reporting that he is willing to take the case as far as he needs to, even to the Supreme Court if necessary. Speaking to sportswriter Bill Dwyre about “The Dream Whisperer”, a documentary on former Lakers player Dick Barnett, who played with West on the team in the mid-1960s, West reportedly told Dwyre that it would be nice to watch something positive and accurate for a change, an obvious dig at the HBO miniseries.
“The series made us all look like cartoon characters”, West told Dwyer. “They belittled something good. If I have to, I will take this all the way to the Supreme Court”.
The Showtime Lakers and their rivalry with the Boston Celtics is largely credited with the NBA’s explosion of popularity in the 1980s. Their uptempo offence, live music, and Lakers girls (cheerleaders were rare in the NBA at the time) changed the way NBA basketball was presented in the arena and on television screens.
By most accounts, the HBO show does a competent job of portraying that, along with entertaining, if exaggerated portrayals of Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Worthy, and Lakers coach Pat Riley.
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But it is the portrayal of West that is getting the most criticism from fans, players, and, of course, West himself. The letter, penned by West’s lawyer, said that the series “falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic. The Jerry West in ‘Winning Time’ bears no resemblance to the real man. The real Jerry West prided himself on treating people with dignity and respect. ‘Winning Time’ is a baseless and malicious assault on Jerry West’s character. You reduced the legacy of an 83-year-old legend and role model to that of a vulgar and unprofessional bully — the polar opposite of the real man”.
The series portrays West as a tantrum-throwing lunatic, throwing a championship trophy through an office window, breaking clubs on a golf course, and crying on the floor in his underwear because the Lakers did not draft the player he wanted.
It is not just West who took umbrage with the portrayal. Abdul-Jabbar wrote on his Substack that 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. 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”.
Steve Springer, who covered the Lakers during the Showtime era and penned five books on the NBA franchise, said West’s portrayal is “stupid and dumb”.
HBO, its parent company Warner Bros Discover, and director Adam McKay have not commented on the portrayal of West publicly. Winning Time has been renewed for a second season by HBO.
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