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HBO’s ‘Winning Time’ Makes These 5 Lakers Figures Look the Worst

No one should ever make the mistake of thinking they know an athlete or celebrity based on what they see in public.

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HBO’s series on the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, Winning Time, has been a highly entertaining account of the people and events that elevated one of the NBA’s most venerated franchises to championship glory. But it also depicts that path in an outrageous, over-the-top manner that has upset many of those who were involved or familiar with that era.

Virtually no one comes off looking good with how they’re portrayed in this series. Maybe Claire Rothman or Jeanie Buss. Others, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, aren’t shown in a positive light. Yet the dramatization isn’t necessarily objectionable either.

However, some of the figures in this story look rather bad throughout the course of Winning Time‘s story. (Maybe a separate column should be devoted to how the city of Boston and everyone involved with the Boston Celtics organization are portrayed. Wow.)

The following five characters (and real-life figures) likely wish the series had never been made and hope viewers consider that this is an exaggerated version of events. It’s possible some of that could change based on how the final two episodes of the series go. But… probably not.

Paul Westhead: Westhead was almost certain to be portrayed in a bad light in Winning Time just because of his place in Lakers history. It’s not certain what we’ll see in the series’ final two episodes. But in the season following the one being chronicled on the show, the Lakers lost in the playoffs and Johnson wanted to be traded if Westhead wasn’t fired.

But Jason Segel’s portrayal of Westhead as a gutless leader with no self-confidence who’s afraid to stand up for himself and deal with players is truly unflattering, hinting that the coach will ultimately be roadkill on the Lakers’ drive toward a championship dynasty.

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Chick Hearn: How the Lakers’ legendary broadcaster is portrayed is one of the more surprising developments of the series. From afar, Hearn (played by Spencer Garrett) appeared to be a fun guy known for clever nicknames and turns of phrase. The person we see on Winning Time, however, makes racist and homophobic remarks, is extremely vain, takes locker-room teasing to outright abuse, and regularly drinks booze out of a mug during games.

He’s also a major control freak at the broadcast table. Hearn holding up his fist to tell his cohort to stop talking feels more painful and demeaning when Westhead says “Chick’s fist” and thrusts his own to remind Pat Riley how much worse his working life could be.

Jerry Buss: The Lakers owner’s grand ambition is the driving force behind the era depicted in Winning Time, the many NBA championships that followed, and his franchise’s status as one of the popular brands in professional sports. We definitely see that in John C. Reilly’s portrayal of Buss. The man wants to win. He has to win, or his significant financial risk will send him deep into bankruptcy.

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But his womanizing has cost him nearly everything in his personal life, notably the relationship with his daughter Jeanie. Maybe the most uncomfortable example of this occurs near the end of Episode 8, “California Dreaming,” when Buss takes advantage of the sympathy and kindness shown by the woman he’s hired to take care of his dying mother and seduces her. Just when you think Buss might have changed, he shows he hasn’t.

Magic Johnson: Before Winning Time began airing on HBO, Johnson made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the series. His opinion could hardly be viewed as objective and the idea that a story about the Lakers without the involvement of the Lakers is warped logic. But whether Magic knew what the show would portray or not, watching the series makes it apparent why he denounced the entire effort.

The series makes a point of demonstrating that dropping a 20-year-old basketball sensation and savior of a franchise into a den of temptation would inevitably lead to trouble. The story begins by showing us the eventual results of Johnson’s promiscuous ways. But the way Johnson treats the many women in his life and those who can help him make money and become a celebrity is hardly flattering. His redeeming quality will apparently be a ruthless desire to win, the valuable advice Jerry West shares at the end of Episode 8.

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Jerry West: It shouldn’t be a surprise that the legendary Lakers star, coach, and general manager demanded a retraction and apology from HBO and producer Adam McKay for how he’s portrayed in Winning Time.

No one should ever make the mistake of thinking they know an athlete or celebrity based on what they see in public. (Or dramatized on a TV series.) Yet the show depicting West as a depressive incapable of enjoying winning, traumatized by losing, and prone to fits of rage and isolation when he doesn’t get his way was shocking. Understandably, several who know West came to his defense after early episodes of the show aired.

But if there’s a theme throughout this series, it seems to be that nearly everyone involved in the story will eventually find their purpose in working toward the common goal of winning. West may have been plagued by self-doubt and lack of joy as a player and coach, but realizes his talent as a judge of talent and character. At least that appears to be where his story arc is going.

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BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Does The Return of Bob Iger Mean to ESPN?

Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: What Is Realistic For FOX at the World Cup?

Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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