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Jerry West seeks apology, retraction from HBO over 'Winning Time' character

Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Hall of Famer Jerry West is formally demanding that HBO issue an apology and a retraction regarding his controversial portrayal on the network's series "Winning Time," according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

Attorneys for West called actor Jason Clarke's portrayal "a baseless and malicious assault" on West's character in a letter sent Tuesday to the show's producer Adam McKay, which was obtained by Shelburne. They say the series "falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic."

West is also seeking damages from HBO and the producers of "Winning Time." His lawyers argue that "the show goes out of its way to denigrate Jerry West despite his accomplishments as an executive."

HBO did not immediately provide a comment, according to Shelburne.

"Winning Time" is based on the book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s" by Jeff Pearlman, which recounts behind-the-scenes experiences of one of the franchise's most successful eras through a wide range of interviews. West - whose entire playing career was spent with the Lakers from 1960-74 - was the team's general manager at the time.

West's attorneys, however, say that the rage-filled depictions of him in the show are not found in the book, constituting what they describe as "legal malice."

Lakers icon and fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played with the club from 1975-89 and is portrayed by actor Solomon Hughes on the show, criticized "Winning Time" as "deliberately dishonest" in a newsletter published Tuesday on his Substack.

"It’s a shame the way they treat Jerry West, who has openly discussed his struggle with mental health, especially depression," Abdul-Jabbar said. "Instead of exploring his issues with compassion as a way to better understand the man, they turn him into a Wile E. Coyote cartoon to be laughed at.

"He never broke golf clubs, he didn’t throw his trophy through the window. Sure those actions make dramatic moments, but they reek of facile exploitation of the man rather than exploration of character."

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