HBO has responded to former stars of the Los Angeles Lakers who have criticized the network’s series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which dramatizes the team’s championship run in the 1980s.
After initially declining to comment, HBO issued a statement Tuesday saying: “HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from actual facts and events that are fictionalized in part for dramatic purposes. ‘Winning Time’ is not a documentary and has not been presented as such. However, the series and its depictions are based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing, and HBO stands resolutely behind our talented creators and cast who have brought a dramatization of this epic chapter in basketball history to the screen.”
HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.
Former Lakers star, coach and general manager Jerry West, through his attorney, demanded a retraction and apology last week 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 cited 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 pointed to 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.
The network has renewed the series for a second season, stating, “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, who has also sought to distance himself from the HBO series, recently appeared in “They Call Me Magic,” a four-part documentary 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.”