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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

Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+

“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group and Diamond Sports Group have tapped Michael Schneider as the chief operating officer and general manager of Bally Sports+ when it launches this year.

Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.

Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.

“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”

Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.

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Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+

“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”

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As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.

Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.

Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.

“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”

The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.

“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”

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Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live

“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

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Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.

“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.

Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.

“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.

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