Jerry West has made it very clear he is not a fan of the series “Winning Time” and, specifically, his depiction in it. He’s made that abundantly clear, first through articles, then through his demand of an apology and a threat to take matters to the Supreme Court (whatever that would entail).
Most of West’s complaints about the series have been general ones about how his character is portrayed. But a recent article by Doug Krikorian of LA AM 570 Sports allowed West to push back against specific aspects of the show.
First, like Magic Johnson, West noted that he had not watched a single episode of the series yet and has been told of his portrayal by others around him. And hearing how he has been depicted has had quite an effect on him.
“Of course it hurts when I hear how I’m being portrayed,’’ he says. “That’s just not me. Certainly, I’m not a perfect person. But I’m also not the combustible person they’re showing me to be in this series. Of course, it bothers me. I’ve had a few sleepless nights because of it. I don’t deserve such treatment. . .’’
There were various other minute details that West cleared up as well. He clarified he never broke a golf club over his leg out of rage, he never had a loud argument with Dr. Jerry Buss and claims he has never been thrown out of a Lakers practice in his life.
That last point might be splitting some hairs, though. Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson talked about kicking West out of the locker room during the three-peat era of the Lakers. And Mark Jackson reportedly banned West from practice during their time together at Golden State.
West also pushed back at the narrative that he did not want to draft Magic Johnson as was portrayed early in the series.
“That’s absolutely a lie. Certainly, I thought Sidney Moncrief would be a good NBA player, and he turned out to be an All Star. But, please, I would never have drafted Moncrief ahead of Magic Johnson, who I knew would be a great, great NBA player and had so much charisma. An LA sportswriter started that rumor back in `79 and the press has run with it ever since even though it’s simply not true.
“First off, Jack Kent Cooke had said throughout that season that the Lakers were going to take Magic. He made the decision, and there never was any debate about it. Jack kept saying before the draft, `It’s going to be Magic Time in LA.’ Bill Sharman was then the general manager, but the decision to draft Magic was strictly Jack Kent Cooke’s. If I were in charge, I of course would have taken Magic, who I’ve had such a close friendship with over the years and for whom I have great respect.’’
Some of West’s complaints are fairer than others. It wasn’t the most accurate portrait of him painted in the opening episode in which so many took offense to West’s depiction. But the show has done a more fair job of representing West in the episodes after, which is how TV shows work. A character is introduced as a more dramatic version of itself and then you get the nuance later on that balances it out.
And the point can’t be made enough — “Winning Time” is not nor was it ever supposed to be a documentary. It is dramatic television. And too many of the Lakers involved do not seem to grasp the first word of that phrase.
As a fan of documentaries, one on the Showtime Lakers would almost certainly be enjoyable and I would watch it. But that doesn’t make “Winning Time” any less enjoyable for what it is.