HBO and Winning Time author respond to accusations and criticism

As HBO Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty reached the end of its first season, the show continues to generate controversy. The drama series, which received positive reviews from critics and fans, was not well received by former players and members of the current NBA organization. In fact, the former Los Angeles Lakers point guard, coach and general manager Jerry West sued against the show and its home network. In the wake of West’s move, the premium cable channel released a response to the criticism and accusations. And the author of the novel the show is based on also shared some general thoughts.

Last week, Jerry West’s legal team sent a letter to the channel and to Adam McKay in which the Hall of Fame blasted the show’s portrayal of him. West called Jason Clarke’s portrayal a “baseless and malicious assault” on his character. His lawyers also requested a retraction no later than two weeks after receiving the letter. The Home Box Office Network finally responded to the request this week via a statement sent to THR. The entertainment company argued that the series was not a documentary, but maintained that “extensive factual research and reliable sources” were used for it:

HBO has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from true facts and events that are partly fictionalized for dramatic purposes. 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.

Each episode begins with a disclaimer stating that the production is a dramatization. This message has still not been protected winning time backlash, however. In fact, Jerry West’s legal team specifically argued that the disclaimer does not shield the network from liability. NBA Veteran Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while sharing his thoughts, had no problem with the show being a fictionalized 80s Lakers tale. However, he always criticized the Adam McKay-produced series for being boring, overdone, and “filled with caricatures instead of characters fully developed”. His former teammate, Magic Johnson, also said he would not connect because the show wouldn’t be able to replicate the Showtime era.

The television program is based on the novel Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s, written by Jeff Pearlman. The author and sports columnist has seen the reviews and, while speaking with Varietyhe offered his thoughts:

I don’t get mad when people talk about that. Obviously, people have a right. A guy is writing a book. You don’t know him. ‘OK, well, how much are you going to pay me?’ I’m not going to pay you. “Well, what about editorial control? No, you have no editorial control. ‘Well, can I read my quotes first?’ In fact, you can’t. I understand why people don’t talk to us. It still rubs my engine a little. I’m going to call every other teammate, every ball boy and every girl at the Lakers, and I’m going to tape it all up… It makes sense that they have weird feelings about it. I don’t harbor any grudges or ill will or anything.

The Mirror of the Scribe’s Feelings comments by Quincy Isaiah, who plays Magic Johnson on the show. Asked about the blowback, the up-and-coming actor said he could “understand” where Johnson and his colleagues were coming from. Isaiah also referenced the aforementioned dramatization label and said there was “no malice behind” the portrayals.

It’s fair to assume that HBO may have to deal with other winning time critics move on. As of this writing, Jerry West’s legal team has yet to respond to the cable channel’s statement. We’ll just have to wait and see how both parties continue to handle the situation, as work on the recently greenlit second season continues.

As the off-screen drama continues, Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty launches new episodes on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET, and they can then be streamed with a HBO Max Subscription. Do yourself a favor and also check CinemaBlend’s 2022 TV Schedule.

Lola R. McClure