- John C. Reilly defended HBO’s “Winning Time” in an interview with Vulture.
- Reilly knew former Lakers players might not like it, but argued the story deserved to be told.
- Magic Johnson, Jerry West, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have slammed the series.
John C. Reilly defended “Winning Time: The Rise of the Laker Dynasty” after former members of the Los Angeles Lakers blasted the series.
In an interview with Vulture’s Lane Brown published on FridayReilly was asked about the criticism launched at the HBO series following its premiere on March 6. NBA legends Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry West were among those who believed the series was an exaggerated portrayal.
“The overall plot is based on historical fact, but we do fill in a lot of blanks,” Reilly, 56, told Vulture. “I knew it would be difficult for the people involved in this story to see their lives depicted in a semi-fictional way. But that does not mean this story should not be told.”
Reilly, who plays former Lakers owner Jerry Buss, continued that those were “crazy times.”
“There was anger and betrayal, and the shit was hitting the fan. I respect everyone’s right to their own story, but I do not think that precludes others from telling public stories. And this is a public story,” he said.
Reilly then addressed criticisms that the series was completed without input from Lakers players and staff.
“People have said, ‘How can you tell the story of the Lakers without the Lakers themselves?’ And my answer to that is, ‘How could you tell it with them?’ “Reilly concluded.
Johnson told Variety that he refused to watch “Winning Time” after neither HBO nor the creative executives sought participation from him or his teammates.
“First of all, you can not do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers,” Johnson told the outlet. “The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys. There’s no way to duplicate Showtime. I do not care who you get.”
Soon after, former Lakers player and coach Jerry West requested an apology and retraction from HBO over his portrayal in the series. ESPN reported that West’s lawyers wrote in a letter to HBO that the show “falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic” and “bears no resemblance to the real man.”
Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an April 19 blog post that the series was “deliberately dishonest,” adding that the show changed “solid facts” with “flimsy cardboard fictions.”
“It’s a shame the way they treat Jerry West, who has openly discussed his struggle with mental health, especially
“Abdul-Jabbar wrote.” Instead of exploring his issues with compassion as a way to better understand the man, they turn him into a Wile E. Coyote cartoon to be laughed at. “
Claire Rothman, former general manager and president of The Forum, told Lakers’ website Goldstein and Gasol that she declined to work with the show because Lakers president Jeanie Buss, daughter of former owner Jerry Buss, did not approve it. Rothman added that she did not like how the show portrayed Jerry Buss.
“Winning Time” follows the Los Angeles Lakers’ journey to success in the 1980s. The series finale premieres on Sunday, May 8.