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Has the backlash from some ex-Lakers to Winning Time been fair?

Amin Elhassan and Charlotte Wilder welcome Jeff Pearlman to the show to talk about the HBO series and the reaction from some of the 1980s Lakers it depicts.

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Jeff Pearlman joined Amin Elhassan and Charlotte Wilder on the most recent episode of Oddball to discuss how his book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” about the 1980s Lakers evolved into the HBO series “Winning Time” and what the fallout has been.

Amin says he’s a fan of the HBO show, but notes that not everyone agrees. He wants to know what feedback Pearlman has received given that he doesn’t remember anyone being upset about the book that spawned the series. Pearlman notes that no one complained when the book originally came out and generally people felt the book was great. Pearlman notes that he’s not a TV guy, never worked in the medium before, so this idea of “inspired by” is a new phenomenon for him.

He thinks the show is great and has changed his life in so many ways, but he gets the criticism from Magic, Jerry West or Kareem. It’s dramatic, not a documentary, so he understands how West could be upset seeing a guy who looks like him sitting in a facsimile of the Lakers offices saying things he never said. Pearlman said he’s told the show’s writers that they have to understand where the subjects are coming from and the fact that they are watching interpretations of themselves and it's painful. He says he gets it and doesn’t begrudge anyone.

Charlotte asks if Pearlman has talked to any of the subjects and points out that Jeanie has said she loves watching the show because she misses her dad, the late Dr. Jerry Buss, and she feels like watching the show is watching her dad given how well John C. Reilly has played the role. Pearlman says he has talked with people from the Lakers, who he won’t name, but Jeanie doesn’t really talk to him anymore. He says he thinks she was taken aback and maybe upset at first by the show. But he thinks over time they’ve seen the care and the devotion the 1980s Lakers the show has taken. So he thinks the team has come around to it as an homage to the 1980s Lakers.

Amin references several of the other Lakers-centric projects that came out around the same time and how they all made it seem like Winning Time was so far off from the REAL story when in reality, much of what came out was similar to what was seen in Winning Time.

Pearlman also says it’s interesting that sometimes subjects of projects like this say you can only get the true story from them, but he finds that if you want to get the true story of someone you DON’T want to get it from them. He notes that if he’s going to tell his own story he may only be telling it from his own perspective, not an outsider’s perspective. Ultimately, he said, he thinks a biographer is telling a more accurate story than an autobiography.

When asked how important access to a subject is when working on a biography, Pearlman notes that you always want access. Ultimately, he feels that talking to the people a subject influenced most directly and the people who had an influence on the subject is a really powerful way to go about doing a biography. He says that when you interview people, they’re going to put their best foot forward, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at the end of the day, you can get an honest and accurate portrait of who somebody is even if you don’t have a direct interview with them.

Meanwhile, Pearlman even got a chance to have his own star turn.


Unquestionably The Guy ft. Jeff Pearlman

  • Chris Paul feels “sorry” for opponents, Anthony Edwards is “that guy”, and Joel Embiid was cozying up to Knicks execs at his wedding? This is all too much... time to hit the headlines! Amin & Charlotte then bring on Jeff Pearlman, writer of “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s”, the basis of HBO’s “Winning Time”, to break down the most surprising revelations from that era, the reaction from the Buss family, and the backlash from Lakers legends on their portrayal.

Watch more below!


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