An NBA legend wants a retraction from HBO.
In a letter to executive producer Adam McKay and executives at the network, former Los Angeles Lakers star Jerry West has decried the series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”.
Calling the series, which was recently renewed for a second season, “a deliberately false characterization” of himself and other real-life figures portrayed in the series, West and his lawyers have demanded a legal retraction from HBO within two weeks, Variety reported.
The letter stated that the series “has caused great distress to Jerry and his family” and “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.”
West said the depiction was “so egregious and cruel” that many others portrayed in the show have weighed in with their own criticism, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
West doubled down in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, confirming his intention to take HBO to court.
“The series made us all [the Lakers] look like cartoon characters,” West told the Times. “They belittled something good. If I have to, I will take this all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Writing on his personal blog this week, Abdul-Jabbar said of the depiction of West, “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.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s letter concluded, “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.”
HBO issued a statement in defense of the show to The Hollywood Reporter.
“HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from actual facts and events that are fictionalized in part for dramatic purposes,” the network said in its statement. “‘Winning Time’ is not a documentary and has not been presented as such. 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.”