Former Los Angeles Lakers player and executive Jerry West has, through his legal counsel, requested a retraction from HBO, Warner Bros. Discovery and producer Adam McKay for their portrayal of West in the HBO series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”. ”
“The depiction of NBA icon and LA Lakers legend Jerry West in ‘Winning Time’ is fiction purporting to be fact – a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family”, said West’s attorney, Skip Miller, a partner at Miller Barondess. , LLP, said in a statement.
“Contrary to the baseless portrayal of the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular the owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, at a time when he was gathering one of the greatest teams in NBA history.”
In a lengthy letter, Miller’s firm requested a retraction “no later than two weeks from the date of this letter,” dated April 19. The letter also asked for an apology.
The letter states that the series portrays West as “an intoxicated, out-of-control rage addict. The Jerry West in Winning Time bears no resemblance to the real man. The real Jerry West took pride in treating people with dignity and respect. Winning Time is a baseless and malicious attack on the character of Jerry West. You have reduced the legacy of an 83-year-old legend and role model to that of a vulgar, unprofessional bully – the polar opposite of the real man.
West, a Basketball Hall of Famer who took wins and losses seriously, spent 14 seasons with the Lakers and was a star every season.
In nine Finals appearances, the West Lakers have lost six times to the Boston Celtics and twice to the New York Knicks. West and the Lakers beat the Knicks in the 1972 Finals. He was 0-7 in the Finals before finally winning a title. West was named one of the NBA’s Top 75 Players this season.
After his playing days, West briefly coached the Lakers, then moved to the front office, where he created the “Showtime Lakers” led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy and coached by Pat Riley.
Anger over West’s portrayal is simmering among his friends, associates and those who covered West as a player and executive. Longtime sportswriter Bob Ryan called West’s portrayal “reprehensible” and “borderline criminal”.
The series is based on the book “Showtime” by author and sportswriter Jeff Pearlman.
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The letter includes statements from several people in support of West.
Former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who worked with West, said: “During my time with the Lakers as a player and in the front office, Jerry was always professional, equal and gentle. He was always positive. and encouraging with me. I also found Jerry to be honest and sincere. I never saw or heard Jerry lose his temper with anyone. Also, I never saw or heard Jerry get into an angry rant or tirade and I never saw or heard Jerry yell or yell at anyone. It wasn’t his personality. Jerry is soft spoken and doesn’t like confrontation.
Former players’ agent Arn Tellem, now a Detroit Pistons executive, in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Of all the shamed and ridiculed athletes and executives in the first two episodes, the most brutal character assassination — and free — was reserved for Jerry West (played on the show by Jason Clarke), the universally beloved former Lakers player, coach and general manager known as Mr. Clutch. …
“In all of our dealings, he was courteous, respectful, generous and self-deprecating. He never lost his composure. He always listened to me. Many players I have represented have sought his advice, both professional as well as personal. Having struggled with depression throughout his adult life, West has a deep awareness of the suffering of others, coupled with a desire to relieve it. Sure, he can be in a bad mood. But when he’s frustrated, he does not unleash himself, he withdraws into himself.
Former Lakers forward Jamaal Wilkes said in a statement: “In all the time that I have known Jerry as a coach and as an executive at Laker, I have never seen him drink alcohol. at work and I have never seen him drunk or impaired.”
Miller’s letter also claims that the HBO limited series paints West as incompetent and fabricated events and definitely tarnishes West. The letter adds that a disclaimer calling the series a dramatization does not excuse wrongful conduct and “does not absolve you from liability.”
Although there was no lawsuit, the letter said West’s portrayal was accompanied by “legal malice.”
“We understand the show has been picked up for one more season. We further require that all future episodes avoid false and defamatory content about Jerry West. All legal rights and remedies are reserved,” Miller concluded.
USA TODAY has contacted HBO for comment.