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“A baseless and malicious assault” — Jerry West demands a retraction and apology from "Winning Time" producers

You know it's serious when a legal team gets involved.
Los Angeles Lakers guard and GM/executive Jerry West

Jerry West

Jerry West had a very difficult life, that's no secret; he's been open about the struggles he faced. But the way he's portrayed in HBO's "Winning Time" obviously went too far for The Logo.

“Fiction pretending to be fact”

Last night, West's legal team sent a letter to Adam McKay, the producer behind "Winning Time," and to HBO headquarters. As Ramona Shelbourne reported, in the letter West demands a retraction and apology for the way he's been portrayed in the TV series. 

"The portrayal of NBA icon and L.A. Lakers legend Jerry West in 'Winning Time' is fiction pretending to be fact -- a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family."

Jerry West's letter to HBO, via ESPN

West's legal team points out that contrary to his portrayal, West's time with the Lakers was harmonious, especially his relationship with Dr. Jerry Buss. They also point out that as the architect of the Showtime Lakers and everything else he did in the NBA, West deserved more than a portrayal that “has knowingly demeaned him for shock value and the pursuit of ratings.

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If you haven't seen the show, West is basically portrayed as an alcoholic with rage issues. As I mentioned, West has opened up about his struggles in life, but this portrayal obviously took liberties that crossed a line. 

The line between reality and fiction

In her story, Shelbourne pointed out HBO did not immediately respond or comment on the letter and the story. In the letter demanding the retraction and apology, West's lawyers gave the producers two weeks to do so. If it doesn't happen, we can presume they would take other legal steps. 

West's lawyers point out that just because HBO has a disclaimer at the start of the show stating that it is “a dramatization does not insulate the network from liability.” Embellishment for dramatic purpose is OK, but not if it distorts the fundamental facts about the character. 

West isn't alone in this. The letter comes with statements from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper, Jamaal Wilkes, and Lakers employees who worked with The Logo at the time. They all supported West's claim his portrayal is profoundly incorrect and unfair.  

The show is based on Jeff Pearlman's book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s." The scenes, such as West throwing his trophy out the window or breaking golf clubs, which appear in the show, are not in the book. In it, West and his supporters feel is a much more balanced, fair portrayal of himself and his life story. 

"Contrary to the show, the book leaves readers with the true impression of Jerry as a brilliant and thoughtful GM. Your extreme departure from the book shows malice in your false portrayal."

Hopefully, the producers accept the fact they went too far, apologize, and set the record straight on the greatest architect in NBA history. The man is The Logo, for crying out loud. 

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