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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

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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