Previous Los Angeles Lakers Executive Jerry West is demanding a retraction and an apology for what he called “a baseless and malicious attack” on his character on the HBO series “Winning Time,” in a letter sent Tuesday night by his legal team to the network and producer Adam McKay. that ESPN got.
West’s attorneys allege that “Winning Time falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an intoxicated, out-of-control rage addict,” saying he “doesn’t look like the real man.” They ask for a retraction no later than two weeks from receipt of the letter.
“The portrayal 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 Jerry and his family great distress,” said Skip Miller, Partner of Miller. Law firm Barondess LLP in Los Angeles and West’s attorney. “Contrary to the unsubstantiated portrayal in the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular owner Dr. Jerry Buss, during an era in which he brought together one of the best teams in NBA history.
“Jerry West was an integral part of the success of the Lakers and the NBA. It is a farce that HBO knowingly downgraded him for his shock value and audience seeking. As an act of common decency, HBO and the producers owe it to Jerry a public apology and should at least retract his baseless and defamatory portrayal of him.”
West’s attorneys said HBO’s disclaimer that the series is a dramatization does not insulate the network from liability.
HBO did not immediately respond or comment on West’s letter.
The series, which has been airing Sunday nights this spring on HBO, is based on author Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.”
West’s attorneys allege that the series’ creators acted with “legal malice” because many scenes in the series showing West’s alleged anger did not appear in Pearlman’s book and did not occur. The letter includes statements from former players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes, as well as Lakers employees such as Claire Rothman, Charlene Kenney, Bob Steiner and Mitch Kupchak who worked with West during the period covered by the program. , denying ever seeing him commit any of the rage-filled acts or drink alcohol in the office, as depicted in the series.
“Instead of compassionately exploring his problems as a way to better understand the man, they turn him into a Wile E. Coyote caricature for laughs,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement. “He never broke golf clubs, he never threw his trophy out the window. Sure, those actions create dramatic moments, but they reek of easy man exploitation rather than character exploration.”
Rothman, who ran operations at the Great Western Forum for more than 20 years and is played by Gaby Hoffmann on the series, said: “Jerry treated me and everyone else in the Lakers organization with dignity and respect. Never I saw Jerry break or throw anything.” in anger or rage nor did I hear anyone say that he did such things.
Kupchak, now the charlotte hornets‘ general manager, he played for the Lakers from 1981 to 1986 and then worked alongside West in the Lakers’ front office from 1986 to 2000.
“During my time with the Lakers as a player and in the front office, Jerry was always professional, even-tempered and soft-spoken,” Kupchak said. “He was always positive and encouraged me. I also found Jerry to be honest and sincere. I never saw or heard Jerry lose his temper with anyone. I also never saw or heard Jerry rant or rant in anger, nor have I ever seen or heard Jerry Jerry yelling or yelling at someone. That was not his personality. Jerry is soft-spoken and doesn’t like confrontation. He always maintains his composure and stays calm even when having a disagreement with someone. Lastly, I have never heard or seen Jerry. Jerry break or throw anything in anger.”
West’s attorneys said HBO and the show’s producers owe him a retraction, an apology and damages because “the show goes to great lengths to disparage Jerry West despite his accomplishments as an executive.”
The letter goes on to cite the series’ description of West’s role in drafting Magic Johnson, saying that it implies West had “personal animosity” against Johnson and tried to “sabotage” his selection. West’s attorneys said he singled out Sidney Moncrief’s scoring ability and that the Lakers should consider it, while then-team owner Jack Kent Cooke had the final call.
“So instead of seeing the real Jerry West, a brilliant general manager who was the architect of one of the NBA’s great dynasties, anyone who watched the show would be left with the false impression that West is incompetent, that he doesn’t wanted Magic Johnson. This is an invention,” the letter says. “Unlike the show, the book leaves readers with the true impression of Jerry as a brilliant and thoughtful general manager. His extreme departure from the book shows malice in the false interpretation of him.”