Jerry West is bloodthirsty. The real Jerry West, that is, not the Jason Clarke avatar we saw stalking and storming the first season of winning time. The flesh and blood West, who is part of the Lakers organization as much as Kobe Bryant or Magic Johnson, is really pissed off. Recently, he demanded a retraction and an apology for his interpretation in the series produced by Adam McKay. However, HBO stood firm, saying the portrayal is “based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing, and HBO strongly supports our talented creators and actors who have brought dramatization to this epic chapter in basketball history.” on the screen”.
To be fair to West, that’s a pretty nasty portrayal. So much so that real-life Lakers counterparts have spoken out in favor of West and against the dramatization of the show. West is portrayed as an alcoholic, verbally abusive megalomaniac who bleeds purple and gold. But he’s not alone in his unflattering portrayal. None of the Lakers’ main players are spared having their sins exposed for on-screen entertainment. Prior to all of this hype, West was known as the grandfather of the NBA. It was a salt-of-the-earth West Virginian who sat us on his knees to tell us how he envisioned Kobe Bryant’s game-winning matchup against Shaquille O’Neal in the Western Conference Game 7 comeback. in 2000 before this happened.
While West has plenty of reason to be upset over the dismantling of his “Logo” image, this is art we’re talking about, not real life. Although it is based on real events, it is a dramatization, and neither HBO nor winning time has never challenged this fundamental precedent. But, in Episode Nine’s “Acceptable Loss,” they might have laid bare their greatest vanity without anticipating its contradiction. Early in the episode, Jerry Buss must decide between reinstalling Jack McKinney as head coach after his near-fatal head injury or retaining Paul Westhead, who was McKinney’s protege, and lackey, whom McKinney now considers as his own personal Brutus. Retaining Westhead would ultimately send McKinney into retirementreporting his inability to coach a franchise following his injury.
After talking to all the Lakers alumni, he turns to West for advice. West dismisses his inquiry as the blame for any answer he gives will “undoubtedly lie with me”. Buss tells him behind closed doors, “nobody has to know this is coming from you.” It’s an ironic retort, given that this conversation is supposedly based on extensive research into the events of the Lakers Showtime team. More so, we watch it unfold before us, letting the world know what the West will eventually say and do. If we have to follow the logic, Buss finally told someone he had asked West for advice and then revealed who West inevitably chose before a phone game brought that information to the authors of winning time just in time for this dramatization of the facts. As with most things, Buss proved to be an unreliable confidant and storyteller. Funny enough, it’s one of the main things that make winning time pure entertainment, if not historical fact.
Ultimately, the decision rests with Buss, who is deeply depressed over his mother’s impending death. Whether winning time exaggerates the truth or distorts it for entertainment purposes, the facts remain the same. History tells us who stayed, who was banished, and who died. Knowing this, it is up to the audience to decide whether the surrounding evidence is fact or fiction.
That being said, we should revel in powerful performances that lead us to question this reality. This episode features some of the best work by John C. Reilly, Sally Field, and Wood Harris from the show. All three deal with their own mortality, with different outcomes. Buss stays on track as an owner with a singular mission to win, Spencer Haywood is banned after his drug addiction overtakes his game, and Jessie Buss, the Lakers organization’s loving matriarch dies of cCancer. Each of these actors gives us the full range of emotions on the way to their inevitable destiny. Reilly reveals the flaws in Buss’s mirage as the ultimate salesman. As his mother’s health deteriorates, he heads for the peddler until the dams break, and he is left alone in his mud. As the Buss matriarch, Field exposes the wounds left behind after helping her family rise from rags to riches. She’s been worn down, living a life carrying the men in her life on her back. Through his performance, we see the sacrifice that propelled the Lakers into the legacy they are today. The all-time great actress explodes with power and majesty in every frame, even as she shuffles and stumbles through scenes as a woman coming to terms with death.
Over his two-decade career, Harris has portrayed villains with little complexity outside of their money-related motivations. In portraying Haywood, he found a vehicle to utilize his soulful acting abilities. Of all the basketball players represented in this series, Harris’ Haywood is the greatest tour de force. We support crack addicted Haywood, who marries black power excellence in one scene and drug-addicted desperation in the next. The locker room scene where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar confronts Haywood with the news that he’s been released is heartbreaking. Knowing that Haywood would be kicked out before the Lakers reached the promised land gave him a Moses-like gravitas as a complicated, flawed veteran who fell prey to all the excess Los Angeles had to offer. It’s also an ignored warning for the young star, Magic, who watches one of his teammates succumb to LA’s excesses, as he begins his own relationship with the city’s sins.
As the series draws to a close, it’s best to watch this series not as truth but as a warning that all that glitters isn’t gold. just like winning time leans on the show in its careful editing, all is not as it seems in Showtime’s epic. Beneath the bright lights of Hollywood lurks a belly that can twist even the most accepted truths. Those involved have the right to discuss how their story is being told. Audiences should be grateful that they survived to do so.