Stars of basketball drama Winning Team DEFEND their portrayal of Lakers legends


EXCLUSIVE: ‘It comes with the business when you make a story about real people.’ Stars of basketball drama Winning Team DEFEND harsh portrayal of Lakers legends and brush off legal threats and criticism by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West

  • Actors Jon Young and Caitlin O’Connor tell DailyMail.com that their show Winning Time is ‘right on point’ and ‘not out to get’ the Lakers stars it portrays
  • Lakers legend and former team exec Jerry West slammed HBO’s portrayal of him in the series,  calling it a ‘baseless and malicious assault’ 
  • West demanded an apology and retraction from HBO and producer Adam McKay, according to a letter from his attorneys
  • Former Laker Magic Johnson vowed never to watch the show while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar called the cast ‘crude stick-figure representations’ 
  • Speaking at an event in Los Angeles, Young stood his ground for the show and said, ‘It comes with the business when you make a story about real people’
  • Young, who plays former Lakers player Brad Holland, hit back at West’s claims and said ‘most of the show is right on point’

Stars of basketball drama Winning Time have hit back against criticism and legal threats by Lakers legends Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and coach Jerry West over their portrayal in the HBO show.

West, the former Lakers coach and general manager, has threatened to sue over the show and sent a legal letter to HBO claiming it ‘falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic.’

But in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com actors Jon Young and Caitlin O’Connor say the show is ‘right on point’ and ‘not out to get’ the Lakers stars, adding that their detractors are ‘not really interested in starting a dialogue’.

Magic has vowed never to watch Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty while Kareem called the cast ‘crude stick-figure representations’ of the 80s title winners.

West, 84, was head coach of the Lakers from 1976 to 1979 and an executive for the team from 1979 to 2000, when he led the team to five NBA titles.

Actors Jon Young and Caitlin O'Connor tell DailyMail.com that their show Winning Time is 'right on point' and 'not out to get' the Lakers stars it portrays

Actors Jon Young and Caitlin O'Connor tell DailyMail.com that their show Winning Time is 'right on point' and 'not out to get' the Lakers stars it portrays

Actors Jon Young and Caitlin O’Connor tell DailyMail.com that their show Winning Time is ‘right on point’ and ‘not out to get’ the Lakers stars it portrays

Magic Johnson has vowed never to watch Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

Magic Johnson has vowed never to watch Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

West, the former Lakers coach and general manager, (right) has threatened to sue over the show and sent a legal letter to HBO claiming it 'falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,' while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (left) called the cast 'crude stick-figure representations' of the 80s title winners

West, the former Lakers coach and general manager, (right) has threatened to sue over the show and sent a legal letter to HBO claiming it ‘falsely and cruelly portrays Mr. West as an out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic,’ while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (left) called the cast ‘crude stick-figure representations’ of the 80s title winners

Speaking at a red carpet event in Los Angeles last week, Young stood his ground for the show.

‘In terms of the controversy, I thought we all tried to portray characters in a positive light, while also adhering to a story that our producers and writers gave to us,’ he said.

‘It comes with the business when you make a story about real people.

Speaking at an event in Los Angeles, Young stood his ground for the Winning Time and said, 'It comes with the business when you make a story about real people'

Speaking at an event in Los Angeles, Young stood his ground for the Winning Time and said, ‘It comes with the business when you make a story about real people’

‘Nobody likes to hear that people are upset with our work. But at the same time we are not trying to be a docu-series and we are trying to stress that to them. It is purely for entertainment based on reality.’

Young, who plays former Lakers player Brad Holland in the show, hit back at West’s claims that the show falsely portrayed the ex coach and Lakers exec as ‘a vulgar and unprofessional bully.’

‘The extensive research that the writers and producers went through, most of the show is right on point,’ Young said.

‘If everybody was made a nice guy what is the difference between all the characters?

‘You need different personalities to make the show really click.’

Asked if he expects resolution with any of the naysayers, he replied: ‘It seems like they are not really interested in starting a dialogue.’

The show caused a stir when a recent episode showed late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died in 2013, sexually assaulting a nurse caring for his dying mother.

His daughter Jeannie is governor of the team, and has remained tight-lipped about Buss’s portrayal by John C. Reilly in the show, but did introduce herself to Reilly at a game.

Abdul-Jabbar, 75, slammed HBO for West’s portrayal, calling Winning Time a ‘Wile E. Coyote cartoon.’

‘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,’ Abdul-Jabbar said.

‘He never broke golf clubs, he didn’t throw his trophy through the window. Sure, those actions make dramatic moments, but they reek of facile exploitation of the man rather than exploration of character.’

Actor Jason Clarke portraying Jerry West in Winning time with West's silhouette hanging over his shoulder

Jerry West during his time as Lakers coach

West is demanding an apology and retraction from the network as well as producer Adam McKay, according to a letter from his attorneys that was obtained by ESPN Actor Jason Clarke portraying West in Winning time. West is pictured right during his time as coach of the Lakers

This image released by HBO shows Quincy Isaiah, portraying Magic Johnson, left, and Solomon Hughes, portraying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a scene from the series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

This image released by HBO shows Quincy Isaiah, portraying Magic Johnson, left, and Solomon Hughes, portraying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in a scene from the series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

Kareem Absul-Jabbar is pictured during the 1988-1989 Lakers season

Magic Johnson is pictured on the court during a 1987 game

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is pictured during the 1988-1989 Lakers season. Magic Johnson is pictured on the court during a 1987 game. Magic, 62, tweeted defense of his old coach, saying West ‘means so much to the Lakers organization’

Magic, 62, tweeted on April 24 in defense of his old coach, saying West ‘means so much to the Lakers organization’ and that he ‘remains close to a lot of former Lakers today, including me.’

Not all the former Lakers stars are mad at their characters.

Actress O'Connor, 31, plays actress and hardcore Lakers fan Dyan Cannon in the series

Actress O’Connor, 31, plays actress and hardcore Lakers fan Dyan Cannon in the series

Young said he is proud to have a relationship with the real version of his character, Holland – and revealed he even had dinner with Holland and his family.

The actor called the role ‘a dream come true,’ adding: ‘You do your best to balance both adhering to the story and playing a real guy. You want to do both justice.’

Actress O’Connor, 31, who plays legendary actress and hardcore Lakers fan Dyan Cannon in the series, joined Young hitting back at criticism of their series.

‘Winning Time is a dramatization. It is built around the facts, based around the facts. It is for your entertainment. It is not a documentary,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘We hope you love the show.’

The star admitted that she was ‘not shocked when those comments came out,’ referring to the former Lakers players’ criticisms.

‘Any public figure wants to tell their own story through their own perception, and that is not what they have done. It is not a documentary. It is poetry of a real life event – but it’s not real life,’ she said.

  ‘I hope Magic Johnson watches the show, Jerry West and his family and everybody watches the show.

‘That’s all you can hope for. So there are more eyes on the piece of art they made.’

Dyan Cannon and former Magic Johnson watched the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings during a 2001 NBA playoff game

Dyan Cannon and former Magic Johnson watched the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings during a 2001 NBA playoff game

Young plays former Lakers player Brad Holland in the show. Young said he is proud to have a relationship with the real version of his character, Holland – and revealed he even had dinner with Holland and his family

Brad Holland is pictured

Young plays former Lakers player Brad Holland in the show. Young said he is proud to have a relationship with the real version of his character, Holland – and revealed he even had dinner with Holland and his family

The actors spoke at Regard Magazine’s summer issue release party presented by BURN180 at the Riviera 31, inside the Sofitel Los Angeles, which raised awareness for charities including the Foundation for a Slavery Free World.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, detailing the start of the LA team’s professional and personal lives of the 1980s side, is one of HBO’s biggest hits in recent years.

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