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Jerry West’s Portrayal in ‘Winning Time’ Drawing Objections From Colleagues

The series has “done a grave injustice to Jerry… but a huge disservice to the show’s viewers, who will think that it’s a true and accurate portrayal of reality.” 

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Viewers of HBO’s Winning Time, a dramatized series about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers and the evolution of their championship dynasty, might be surprised by the portrayal of franchise legend and NBA icon Jerry West.

Played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Winning Time’s depiction of West is of a perpetually unhappy man prone to swings of anger and depression, consumed by a insatiable appetite for winning and control. Faced with the team drafting 6-foot-9 point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, West is also slow to adapt to innovation, determined that a player that tall should be in the frontcourt.

Those accustomed to West’s public persona as a smart, fiercely competitive, but apparently gentle man will likely find the fictionalized version of West as a rage monster prone to breaking golf clubs over his knee, throwing trophies through windows, and secluding himself in his den as a shock. Also surely jarring was a sex scene involving West and a woman he picked up at a bar after winning the 1972 NBA championship and drinking alone.

Evidently, those who actually know West feel Winning Time‘s portrayal is entirely inaccurate. Longtime Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti told The Athletic’s Bill Oram that he was offered a role in the series but objected to how West was depicted in the script, calling it “a total mischaracterization.”

Former Lakers player and general manager Mitch Kupchak (who was the assistant GM under West) said the person shown on screen “is not the same guy,” and never lost his temper. Another former team executive said anonymously that the series has “done a grave injustice to Jerry… but a huge disservice to the show’s viewers, who will think that it’s a true and accurate portrayal of reality.” 

Those who spoke to Oram are consistent in their assertion that West didn’t show his temper, but probably internalized his emotions. He carried himself as a gentleman, not someone who was frequently angry and cursing around the Lakers’ offices.

Veteran NBA writer Marc Stein, whose coverage is now available on Substack, also objected to the portrayal of West.

“The West presented in Winning Time was absurdly, embarrassingly one note and left out any hint of the wisdom, leadership and charm that made him a franchise pillar for decades and one of the greatest Lakers ever,” Stein wrote. “The worst part: Younger fans of the Lakers and the NBA in general, who missed Showtime in real time and have turned to this series for an education, are bound to believe West was this unhinged.”

Prior to Winning Time‘s premiere on HBO, reports of dissatisfaction from the NBA, the Lakers, and several players portrayed in the series weren’t happy with the dramatization. After viewing the first two episodes, that view is understandable. Neither West nor Johnson are depicted very flatteringly.

While it should be understood that this isn’t a documentary, it’s a fictionalization that exaggerates, the concern that some might perceive this as the truth is a valid concern and open to criticism.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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