Jerry West asks for a retraction and an apology for portrayal in HBO’s ‘Winning Time’

Former Los Angeles LakersExecutive Jerry WestIn a Tuesday evening letter that his legal team sent to Adam McKay and the network, he demanded a retract and an apology for his “baseless and malicious attack” on his character in HBO's “Winning Time.” ESPN obtained the letter.

West's lawyers claim that “Winning Time” portrays Mr. West in a cruel and out-of control way. They also request a retraction within two weeks of receiving the letter.

Skip Miller, a partner in Miller Barondess LLP in Los Angeles, and an attorney for West, stated that the portrayal of NBA legend Jerry West in Winning Time' was fiction. “Contrary the absurd portrayal of Jerry West in HBO's “Winning Time”, Jerry had nothing but love and harmony for the Lakers organization and Dr. Jerry Buss during an era that saw him build one the greatest NBA teams.

“Jerry West was a key part of the Lakers success and the NBA's. It is a shame that HBO has intentionally defamed Jerry West for shock value and ratings. HBO and its producers owe Jerry a public apology. At the very minimum, they should retract their baseless defamatory portrayal.

West's lawyers claim that HBO's disclaimer about the series being a “dramatization”, does not protect the network from liability.

HBO did not immediately reply to West's email or make any comment.

The series, which aired on HBO this spring on Sunday nights, was based on Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime” (Magic, Karem and Riley) and is called the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty (1980s).

West's lawyers claim that the series creators acted with legal malice because many scenes in the series depicting West's purported anger did not appear in Pearlman’s book. Players like Kareem Abdul-JabbarJamaal Wilkes and Michael Cooper as well as Lakers employees Claire Rothman, Charlene Keny, Bob Steiner and Mitch Kupchak. They deny ever having seen West do the rage-filled acts or drink alcohol at the office during the time period depicted in show.

Abdul-Jabbar released a statement saying that they don't want to explore his issues with compassion in order to better understand him. He didn't break golf clubs and he didn’t throw his trophy out the window. These actions are dramatic, but they don't reflect an exploration of character or exploitation of man.

Rothman, who managed operations at the Great Western Forum over 20 years, is portrayed in the series by Gabby Hoffman. He said that Jerry treated him and all other Lakers employees with dignity and respect. I have never seen Jerry throw or break anything out of anger or rage. I also have not heard anyone say such things.

Kupchak is now the Charlotte HornetsHe was the general manager of the Lakers and played from 1981 to 1986. From '86 to '86, he worked with West in the front desk from '86 until 2000. He stated that Jerry was professional, soft-spoken, and even-keeled during his time playing for the Lakers and as the front office manager. He was always encouraging and positive with me. Jerry was honest and sincere, which I found very refreshing. Jerry never lost his temper with anyone. Jerry's anger was never expressed in any form. Jerry did not yell at people or go on a tirade. This was not Jerry's personality. Jerry is soft-spoken and doesn't like confrontation. Jerry is calm and composed, even when in conflict with others. Jerry has never thrown or broken anything, and I have never seen him do that.

West's lawyers claim he deserves a retraction from HBO and damages from the producers. This is because the show “rather than following the book, it goes out of its way denigrate Jerry West despite all his achievements as an executive.” It shows Jerry going on expletive-laden tirades about Magic's decision to draft it, suggesting that Jerry has personal animus towards Magic. Worse, Jerry is shown trying to stop Magic Johnson's drafting. This was never the case. Jerry only pointed out that Sidney Moncrief is a prolific scorer, and suggested that the Lakers consider him. Jerry was not the one who decided who to draft. Jack Kent Cooke, the owner made the call.

“So instead seeing Jerry West, a brilliant GM and the architect of one the greatest NBA dynasties, anyone who saw the show would get the false impression West is incompetent. He didn't want Magic Johnson. This is a fabrication. Jerry is portrayed as a clueless bumpkin wearing a fishing hat to practice. This has never happened.

You omit any mention of Jerry being one the most successful and highly-regarded NBA executives ever. Instead, you insult him by exaggerating Jerry's request to the Lakers not drafting Magic Johnson. Contrary to your show, Jerry's true portrayal in the book is that of a brilliant and thoughtful GM. Your extreme departure from what is in the book is a sign of malice.

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