HBO reminds Jerry West that Winning Time is “not a documentary”

Jason Clarke as Jerry West in Winning Time

Jason Clarke as Jerry West in winning time
Picture: Warrick Page/HBO

After the basketball legend Legal letter from Jerry West demanding retraction by HBO because of its Lakers series Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynastythe company shared a resolute response to the criticism, stating that the series is “not a documentary”.

“HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from true facts and events that are partly fictionalized for dramatic purposes,” HBO said in a statement. “winning time is not a documentary and was not presented as such. However, the series and its portrayals are based on extensive factual research and reliable supply, and HBO steadfastly supports our talented creators and actors who have brought a dramatization of this epic chapter in basketball history to the screen.

Good, you have it now. HBO is not wrong at all, and a legal challenge is unlikely to stand. Nonetheless, West is very unhappy with his portrayal by actor Jason Clarke, calling it “a deliberately false characterization”.

“You took a happy, super-successful Lakers era and turned it into a pulpy soap opera,” West wrote in his letter to HBO. “You portrayed people in a false light, not who they are at all, to collect notes and make money.”

The former Lakers played Kareem Abdul Jabbar also voiced his own criticisms of the show and West’s portrayal in a recent blog post.

“[Jerry] openly discussed his struggle with mental health, especially depression,” writes Abdul-Jabbar. “Instead of exploring his issues with compassion as a way to better understand the man, they turn him into a mocking Wile E. Coyote cartoon. He never broke golf clubs, he never didn’t throw his trophy out the window Sure, these actions create dramatic moments, but they reek of easy human exploitation rather than character exploration.

winning time is currently airing its first season, which ends May 8. The series has been renewed for a Second Season.


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