Former CEO of the Los Angeles Lakers Jerry West He demanded a retraction and an apology for what he called a “malicious and baseless assault” on his character on the HBO series “Winning Time,” in a letter his legal team sent to network and producer Adam McKay Tuesday night, which was obtained by ESPN.
West’s lawyers claim that “Winning Time wrongly and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, anger appraiser”, saying he “doesn’t look like a real man”, and asks for a retraction no later than two weeks after the letter was received.
“The portrayal of NBA icon and Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West in Winning Time is a fiction that pretends to be true – a deliberate misrepresentation that has caused great suffering to Jerry and his family,” said Skip Miller, partner at Miller. Barondess, LLP is a Los Angeles-based law firm and an attorney for West. “Unlike the baseless portrayal of the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love and harmony with the Lakers organization, and especially owner Dr. Jerry Boss, during an era in which he amassed one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
“Jerry West has been integral to the success of the Lakers and the National Basketball Association. It is a farce that HBO intentionally insulted him for shock value and the pursuit of ratings. As an act of public decency, HBO and the producers owe Jerry a public apology and at least they should retract their Their baseless portrayal and defamation.”
West’s lawyers say HBO’s disclaimer that the series is a drama does not insulate the network from liability.
HBO did not immediately respond or comment on West’s message.
The series, which airs on Sunday nights this spring on HBO, is based on author Jeff Perlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Cream, Riley, and the dynasty of the ’80s Los Angeles Lakers.
West’s lawyers claim that the series’ authors acted with “legal malice” because many of the scenes in the series that show West’s alleged anger did not appear in Perelman’s book and did not occur. The message includes data from players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbarand Michael Cooper and Jamal Wilkes, as well as Lakers employees such as Claire Rothman, Charlene Kenny, Bob Steiner and Mitch Kupchak who worked with West during the time period covered by the show, denying that they saw him commit any rage-filled act or drink alcohol in the office, as shown in the series. .
“Instead of compassionately exploring his problems as a way to better understand the man, they turned him into a cartoon ‘Will e Cutie’ laughing at him,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement. “He never broke his putters, he never threw his glass through the window. Sure, these actions make for dramatic moments, but they smell more like easy manipulation than character exploration.”
“Jerry has treated me and everyone else in the Lakers with dignity and respect,” said Rothman, who has run operations at the Great Western Forum for more than 20 years and is portrayed by Gabe Hoffman in the series. I have never seen Jerry break or throw anything in such a rage or rage. And I’ve never heard anyone say he did such things.”
Kupchak, now general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, played for the Lakers from 1981 to 1986, then worked alongside West in the front office from 1986 to 2000.
“During my time with the Lakers as a player and in the front office, Jerry has always been professional, poised, and soft-spoken,” Kopchak said. “He has always been positive and encouraging with me. I have also found Jerry to be honest and truthful. I have never seen or heard Jerry lose his temper with anyone. I have also never seen or heard Jerry go into an angry rant or sermon and have never seen or heard Jerry yell or He yells at anyone. That wasn’t his character. Jerry speaks kindly and doesn’t like confrontation. He always keeps his cool and remains calm even when he’s at odds with someone. Finally, I’ve never heard or seen Jerry break or throw anything in anger” .
West’s lawyers say he is set to step back, an apology, and compensation from HBO and the show’s producers because “the show goes out of its way to discredit Jerry West despite his accomplishments as an executive.”
The letter goes on to cite the series’ portrayal of West’s role in crafting Magic Johnson, saying it indicated that West had a “personal animosity” against Johnson and attempted to “sabotage” his choice. West’s lawyers say he only cited Sidney Moncrieff’s scoring ability and said the Lakers should consider him, while then-owner Jack Kent Cook had the final decision.
“So instead of seeing the real Jerry West—a brilliant GM who was the architect of one of the NBA dynasties—anyone who has seen the show would be left with the wrong impression that West is incompetent, and that he doesn’t want Magic Johnson,” said the letter. “This is slander.”
“Unlike the show, the book leaves readers with a genuine impression of Jerry as a brilliant and thoughtful GM. Your extreme departure from the book shows malice in your misrepresentation.”