Former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West is demanding a retraction of his portrayal in the HBO drama series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” according to a report published Tuesday.
“The portrayal of … West … is fiction pretending to be fact — a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family,” Skip Miller, West’s attorney, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“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.”
In a letter sent to HBO, Warner Bros., Discovery and executive producer Adam McKay, who directed the show’s pilot, West’s attorneys said “Winning Time” “falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,”‘ according to The Times.
“The Jerry West in ‘Winning Time’ bears no resemblance to the real man,” the letter said. “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 letter also declares that the series has damaged the “Showtime” legacy of the 1980s Lakers.
“For the players, coaches and the entire Lakers organization this was a magical and amazing time; and they, along with Jerry West, enjoyed it and got along great with one another,” the letter. “This reality is directly contrary to the portrayals in your show.
“Unfortunately, your false portrayal of the Lakers in your show has caused harm to the reputation of the Lakers organization and its people. Some of the individuals portrayed have passed away and are unable to defend themselves.
“For others, it has tarnished their reputations and shown them in a damaging false light…You took a happy and super successful Lakers era and turned it into a pulpy soap opera. You depicted the people in a false light, not at all who they are, to garner ratings and make money.”
The letter also contains testimonials from former Lakers Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes, former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, now president of the Charlotte Hornets, and others who found the characterization of West to be “egregious and cruel,” Miller told The Times.
The letter set May 3 as the deadline for the retraction.
There was no immediate response to an email to the publicists for “Winning Time” sent Tuesday night.
The show begins with a disclaimer that reads “This series is a dramatization of certain facts and events. Some of the names have been changed and some of the events and characters have been fictionalized, modified or composited for dramatic purposes.”