Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar slam HBO's 'Winning Time' as 'fiction'

By Brian Lowry, CNN

    (CNN) -- The stars of the Los Angeles Lakers featured in the HBO series "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" have given their verdict to the dramatized version of the team's championship run in the 1980s: Rejected.

Former Lakers star, coach and general manager Jerry West has, through his attorney, demanded a retraction and apology over the way that he's depicted in the 10-part series, calling the portrayal "fiction pretending to be fact — a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family."

In the statement, West cites a number of former Lakers, both players and those who worked in management, as supporting his contentions.

Separately, former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used his blog to write a piece decrying "Winning Time" as being "deliberately dishonest" and "drearily dull." While the Hall of Fame center stressed that he understood historical dramas take liberties with actual events and that he doesn't have a thin skin when it comes to criticism, he called the characters in the project "crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people the way Lego Han Solo resembles Harrison Ford."

As one example, Abdul-Jabbar cited a scene in which his character (played by Solomon Hughes) snaps an expletive at a child actor while filming the movie "Airplane!," which he says never happened.

HBO -- which is part of Warner Bros. Discovery, as is CNN -- declined comment regarding the criticism and West's apology demands. The network recently renewed the series for a second season, saying in a statement, "We can't wait to see how this team will tell the next chapter of this dynasty."

Abdul-Jabbar singled out producer Adam McKay, who also directed the first episode, writing that while he has enjoyed McKay-directed movies like "Vice" and "The Big Short" he didn't like "Don't Look Up," suggesting that "Winning Time" "suffers from some of the same shallowness and lazy writing."

Magic Johnson has also sought to distance himself from the HBO series and will tell his own story in "They Call Me Magic," a four-part documentary premiering this weekend on Apple TV+. Another docuseries devoted to the Lakers, similar to ESPN's Chicago Bulls series "The Last Dance," is coming to Hulu later this year.

Starring John C. Reilly as Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Quincy Isaiah as Johnson, the series is based on Jeff Pearlman's book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s."

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