Jerry West is demanding a retraction and an apology for what he called “a baseless and malicious assault” on his character in the HBO series “Winning Time,” in a letter sent by his legal team to the network and producer Adam McKay on Tuesday.
The former Los Angeles Lakers executive’s lawyers allege that “Winning Time falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,” saying that “bears no resemblance to the real man,” and ask for a retraction no later than two weeks from the receipt of the letter.
“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,” said Skip Miller, a partner at the Miller Barondess, LLP law firm in Los Angeles and attorney for West. “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 series is based on author Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.”
The letter includes statements from players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper, and Jamaal Wilkes.
“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 in a 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.”
West’s lawyers say he is due a retraction, an apology, and damages from HBO and the show’s producers because “the show goes out of its way to denigrate Jerry West despite his accomplishments as an executive.”
The letter also touches on the series’ depiction of West’s role in the drafting of Magic Johnson, saying it implies West had “personal animus” against Johnson and tried to “sabotage” his selection.
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“So instead of seeing the true Jerry West — a brilliant GM who was the architect of one of the great NBA dynasties — anyone who watched the show would be left with the false impression that West is incompetent, that he didn’t want Magic Johnson. This is a fabrication,” the letter says.
“Contrary to the show, the book leaves readers with the true impression of Jerry as a brilliant and thoughtful GM. Your extreme departure from the book shows malice in your false portrayal.”