HBO’s new series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” takes on the legacy of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers. In the 1980s, with basketball players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers were winning and riding the spotlight. The nine-episodes HBO series chronicles the professional and personal lives of the team.
Based on Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the ensemble cast includes John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, Adrien Brody, Quincy Isaiah, Sally Field, and Jason Segel, among many others.
While fans tuned into the series, the actual players and team executives have been speaking out. Magic Johnson, for one, has expressed his unhappiness with his portrayal. “”You can’t do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers,” said Johnson.
Former Los Angeles Lakers player and executive Jerry West wants a retraction from HBO, Warner Bros. Discovery and producer Adam McKay for their portrayal of him in “Winning Time,” USA Today reported.
“The portrayal of NBA icon and LA 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, partner at Miller Barondess, LLP, said in a statement.
“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.”
Johnson agrees HBO has its depiction of West wrong. “Jerry helped develop us on the court as basketball players & off the court as men, a reason he remains close to a lot of former Lakers today, including me,” Johnson tweeted.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also not a fan of the HBO series. The NBA legend and activist expressed his disappointment in a Substack blog post he titled “Winning Time Isn’t Just Deliberately Dishonest, It’s Drearily Dull,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.
“There is only one immutable sin in writing: Don’t Be Boring! ‘Winning Time’ commits that sin over and over,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “I’ll start with the bland characterization. The characters are crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people, the way Lego Han Solo resembles Harrison Ford. Each character is reduced to a single bold trait, as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers’ comprehension.”
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On the West controversy, he wrote, “It’s a shame the way they treat Jerry West, who has openly discussed his struggle with mental health, especially depression. 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.”
But the fans seem to like the series, judging from what Black America had to say on Twitter.
“Wood Harris is so good as Spencer Haywood in Winning Time,” tweeted Huffington Post writer Philip Lewis @Phil_Lewis_.
“He better get an Emmy nom for this,” tweeted Todd (MAMBA 4 LIFE !) @Mamba_4_Life8.