Letters: ‘Airplane!’ filmmakers, Laker fans come out against ‘Winning Time’

A man in a patterned maroon shirt praying outdoors
Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Winning Time.”
(Warrick Page / HBO)

Surely, they can’t be serious

Regarding “Lakers Great Cries Foul” [by Greg Braxton, April 21]: As the writers and directors of the movie “Airplane!,” we were asked to briefly play ourselves in “Winning Time.” Because we had never seen the script, we were surprised to see the actor playing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes) say to a child actor, in response to an autograph request, “F— off, kid.”

We had never seen anything like that on the “Airplane!” set.

In fact, during the “Airplane!” shoot, and in the years since, we’ve found Kareem to be both professional and kind. When we saw Kareem’s recent article, we contacted Ross Harris, the actor who played the child in “Airplane!,” for his response.


He said, “It absolutely did not occur,” and went on to say that “the entire experience with Kareem was positive” and that he “had never been contacted by ‘Winning Time.’”

We feel compelled to set the record straight both in support of Kareem and because of the potential negative impact this might have on support for his nonprofit Skyhook Foundation, which provides weeklong retreats for inner-city school children to study science while staying in the [Angeles] National Forest.

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Santa Monica

Everything you need to know about the fight over “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” all in one place.

April 29, 2022


As a native Angeleno who has been a Lakers and Jerry West fan for more than 50 years, I am motivated to express my outrage and disgust for the HBO series “Winning Time” and especially its depiction of West.

Jerry West is an American hero: a collegiate All-American who rose to prominence in his native West Virginia; an Olympian; a distinguished professional athlete who won and lost with dignity; an NBA executive whose achievements are unmatched. More than that, he is a man with intellectual curiosity, an avid reader, one who is generous with his thoughts, opinions and emotions. Who can forget his personal anguish so publicly expressed when Kobe died? He has shared intimate details about his personal struggles (an abusive father, the loss of his beloved older brother who was killed in Korea, his own depression). He has transcended his origin and prowess as an athlete to become so much more.

I have had the great fortune to meet Mr. West on several occasions. I can still remember the kindness he showed when signing his autograph for the 13-year-old me. When I encountered him as an adult, he was likewise welcoming, generous and candid. The “Winning Time” portrayal of West as a squat, vulgar, hot-tempered and foul-mouthed executive couldn’t be more false. I (and millions of others) know West to be honorable, heroic, kind and gentle — and even taller than his listed height.

To West and all the Lakers who were denigrated in “Winning Time,” please know that we share your hurt and outrage — no cheap depiction can erode the superb reputations that you have built over your lifetimes.


Steve Turner
Los Angeles

Everything you need to know about the true story of the Showtime Lakers, all in one place.

May 9, 2022


This “hit piece” about the NBA [“When ’80s Sports TV Ran Afoul,” by Brian T. Brown, April 19] and other notables including former announcer Howard Cosell had no foundational support or real identification of the author that makes him qualified to attack the institutions and people in the article.

What are his sources, and who is he? His only reference to background was where he stated, “In the late 1990s while doing research for a novel about sports TV, I spoke to nearly 100 people in the business.” Really? Who were they, how credible, what proof do you have over 30 years later?

M.H. Miller
Los Angeles


How is this “An insider’s look at the debauchery behind the scenes of ‘Winning Time’ era”?

Is he an insider in production or writing of the series, or is he an “NBA insider,” as so many ESPN reporters self-identify?

Was he inside the Fabulous Forum when the 1980 Lakers won their NBA title?

What does Howard Cosell’s sexual harassment of flight attendants (known in that era as “stewardesses” and marketed by airlines with miniskirt uniforms and lines like “I’m Pam. Fly me.”) or CBS’ NFL broadcast team’s drunkenness have to do with the “Winning Time” series?

Is Brown’s article’s rehash of the foibles of “sports TV” in the ’70s and ’80s intended to explain, justify or blame the creators of “Winning Time” for their farcical portrayals of every real person in the series as a distorted caricature?

Did you publish his article — on the day that Jerry West sued them for defamation — by coincidence or prior notice?


Jeffrey Teal
Los Alamitos

Antisocial media

Mary McNamara’s column accurately covered the entire topic of unregulated “social” media and its contribution to our social and cultural ills [“Social Media Ills Go Beyond Musk,” April 18]. She brilliantly laid out the issues, concerns and problems. We as a culture need to rise to the occasion and implement solutions quickly.

Our children are watching.

Cheryl Kohr
Palos Verdes Estates

A time for requiem

Thank you to Mark Swed for his wonderful article about the loss of contemporary music composers [“Bravo to Six Pioneers,” April 25]. Especially thanks for the remembrance of my mother, Betty Freeman, who was a champion of Harrison Birtwistle (she always called him Harry) among many musicians and composers.

Your article brought back memories of being with her and listening to and meeting so many musicians and composers, including Harry, who was wonderfully eccentric and terrifically talented.

I’m hoping that his legacy and my mother’s legacy will live on.

Shelley Butler

Art delayed is art denied


SoFi Stadium’s stall on installing the work of the two black artists whose works got the Inglewood project approved is exactly what racism looks like [“Stadium Plan Strands Black Artists,” April 22]. The initial concept design with these two black artists made the SoFi Stadium appear community sensitive and was built incorporating percent-for-art money. But the Inglewood Arts Commission did not shepherd that money well, or the artists whose careers and designs were being used to make the deal happen.

It is not only the two artists who now must fight to have their work realized in a timely, respectful manner but the surrounding community that was hoodwinked into thinking that space plopped into their midst could be something to point to with pride, for identity and history. The developer clearly sees the art only as empty decoration.

Indeed, their 25-year stall embedded in the contract shows they never considered it anything more than a pretty bauble to help get the deal done.

Suvan Geer
Santa Ana