HBO Dismisses ‘Winning Time’ Criticism, Insists Series ‘Is Not a Documentary’

Several former Lakers and execs have slammed the show for its depiction of one of the team’s most famous eras


HBO has issued a response to criticism from former Los Angeles Lakers icons over the network’s new series “Winning Time.”

“HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from actual facts and events that are fictionalized in part for dramatic purposes,” the network said in a statement Tuesday. “‘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.”

Based on the nonfiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” by Jeff Pearlman, “Winning Time” tells the story of the groundbreaking “Showtime” era of the Lakers. The period dramatically changed Basketball with emphasis on fast-paced, entertaining play and an entertainment venue atmosphere at home games and was dominated by the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.

Since the series debuted in March, several NBA legends have weighed in with less than favorable opinions of the show and its depiction of one of the team’s most famous eras.

Last week, Jerry West demanded a retraction and an apology for how he’s being portrayed on the show. He is played by Jason Clarke in the series and is depicted as dedicated to the Lakers but tightly wound and frequently angry during the 1979-1980 basketball season covered in the show’s first season.

West called the depiction “fiction pretending to be fact — a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress” to him and his family. “Contrary to the baseless portrayal in the HBO series, Jerry had nothing but love for and harmony with the Lakers organization, and in particular owner Dr. Jerry Buss, during an era in which he assembled one of the greatest teams in NBA history,” a statement from West’s attorney Skip Miller read.

Other Lakers legends who have called out the show include former players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Jamaal Wilkes, and employees Claire Rothman, Charlene Kenney, Bob Steiner and Mitch Kupchak.

It’s worth nothing that the end of every episode of “Winning Time” includes a disclaimer explaining that “some events and characters have been fictionalized, modified or composited for dramatic purposes.”