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After HBO’s Winning Time Got Criticism From Magic Johnson And More, Shaq Drops Honest Thoughts On The Show

Shaquille O'Neal on Graham Besinger
(Image credit: Graham Bensinger)

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty was one of the most high-profile premieres on the 2022 TV schedule, though that wasn’t just because of the solid reviews it received from many critics and general viewers. Even ahead of the HBO dramedy’s debut, it received significant criticism from Laker alums like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While most of the backlash has come from those associated with the “Showtime” era, Shaquille O’Neal has now dropped his thoughts on the show, and they might surprise you.

The Diesel has proven to be a pretty big consumer of TV and movies, so it was probably only a matter of time before he chimed in on the Winning Time discourse. While speaking with ET, the four-time NBA champion revealed that he was mostly fine with the show. However, like many others, he did take issue with one key aspect of it: 

Let me go on record and say I do not like the way they treated Mr. West. However, I found everything else to be very, very entertaining.

The depiction of former Lakers player, coach and general manager Jerry West has been a major point of contention. The series depicts West (played by Jason Clarke) as a volatile figure who frequently loses his temper and occasionally smashes his personal property. The portrayal even prompted the actual West to get lawyers involved. In April, the NBA icon’s legal team sent a letter to the premium cable channel and the series producer, Adam McKay, in which the 84-year-old requested a retraction and an apology. HBO responded to West’s criticism, arguing that the series is “not a documentary” and was “based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing.” 

When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke out on Winning Time, he blessed its depictions of himself and others. He believed the show depicted him as a “pompous prick,” Jerry West as a “crazed coach,” and Magic Johnson as a “sex simpleton.” Early on, Johnson himself said that he wouldn't watch the show, as he believed that it wouldn’t be able to accurately replicate the feel of Showtime.

While details on the second season have yet to be divulged, rumors suggest that the series could tackle Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s era with the team. Shaq spoke to that prospect during his interview as well, and doesn’t sound totally opposed to the idea: 

They’re going to do the whole Shaq and Kobe thing? That’d be very interesting. But listen, you know me. I have a great sense of humor, you know? I don’t really get sensitive on stuff. So, we will see what happens.

We’ll see if Shaq keeps that mindset should Winning Time decide to depict him at some point during its run. After all, it’s easy to be relatively cool with something like this – until it’s your turn to be portrayed. 

As you wait for Season 2 of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, you can stream the entire first season with an HBO Max subscription

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.