“How did so many talented people go so terribly wrong?” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes in a new blog post criticizing HBO’s drama series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” The basketball icon goes on to call the series “deliberately dishonest” and “drearily dull.” The show, which is executive produced by Adam McKay, tracks the 1980s Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers and stars Solomon Hughes as a younger Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar starts his blog post by clarifying that his critical reaction to “Winning Time” has nothing to do with how he is portrayed by Hughes in the show. Instead, he writes that the show “commits the sin” of being boring “over and over.” Abdul-Jabbar also knocked McKay, whose work he used to admire.
More from Variety
“I thought the poor quality of ‘Don’t Look Up’ was an anomaly,” Abdul-Jabbar writes. “I hoped that perhaps because he was overwhelmed by his passion about global warming, he let his commitment overshadow his critical eye. But now that ‘Winning Time’ suffers from some of the same shallowness and lazy writing, I’m not so sure.”
Abdul-Jabbar criticizes “Winning Time” for “bland characterization,” adding, “The characters are crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people, the way Lego Han Solo resembles Harrison Ford. Each character is reduced to a single bold trait, as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers’ comprehension.”
Jason Clarke stars in “Winning Time” as Lakers head coach Jerry West. Abdul-Jabbar had a close relationship with the real West and said “it’s a shame the way they treat” him on the HBO series.
“[Jerry] has openly discussed his struggle with mental health, especially depression,” Abdul-Jabbar writes. “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. 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.”
Abdul-Jabbar ended his blog post by encouraging readers to check out other projects that better explore the Lakers’ dynasty. One of these is Magic Johnson’s new Apple TV+ documentary “They Call Me Magic,” while another is an upcoming 10-part documentary series on the Lakers that’s launching on Hulu.
Read Abdul-Jabbar’s full blog post on “Winning Time” on his website.
Best of Variety