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Winning Time's Jason Clarke Addresses His Character Jerry West's Strained History With The Lakers - Exclusive

Just as the title of the series promises, "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" is just that — a detailed depiction of the Los Angeles Lakers' transformation into the "Showtime Lakers" after investor-slash-impresario Dr. Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) purchased the team in 1979. In an effort to bolster the attendance of the struggling franchise, Buss, his daughter, Jeanie (Hadley Robinson), and LA Forum general manager Claire Rothman (Gaby Hoffmann) infused the Lakers' home games with some showbiz pizazz — changing the face of the NBA forever.

Buss' first big move after he purchased the team from Jack Kent Cooke (Michael O'Keefe), however, was to make NCAA superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA draft. It was a move that was met with resistance not only by the Lakers' superstar center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes), but the team's legendary player-turned-coach Jerry West (Jason Clarke).

New on HBO and HBO Max, "Winning Time" chronicles the stories of several major players on and off the court in the organization during the Lakers' decade of dominating the NBA in the 1980s. West, not surprisingly, is depicted as frustrated and volatile during his tenure as the Lakers' head coach — an extension, effectively, of his on-court consternation during the teams' struggles to defeat their rival team, the Boston Celtics, in several postseason matchups.

Unfortunately, even more bad vibes have transpired between West and the Lakers since he left the team, and actor Jason Clarke explains some of that strained history in an exclusive interview with Looper.

Clarke says West is 'always a Laker and he has a right to be'

"Winning Time," of course, chronicles Jerry West's sudden departure as the Lakers' head coach after "Magic" Johnson is drafted. His absence is followed by coaching stints by Jack McKinney (Tracy Letts) and Paul Westhead (Jason Segel), who was then replaced by former Lakers shooting guard Pat Riley (Adrien Brody). While West's relationship with the team has been strained over the years — and is at the point now where West said he should have "played somewhere else instead of with the Lakers" (CBS Sports via The Athletic) — actor Jason Clarke feels otherwise about the former NBA great.

"I think it's terrible it's gotten to that, but Jerry's always a Laker and he has a right to be," Clarke told Looper. "There's a difference between ownership, players, and fans, and who actually owns a club. The man's contribution — he's always going to be a Laker regardless of whether he's got his tickets or not. I reached out to him. He didn't want to [talk], which was fair enough, and I expected that in a way." Today, West is currently serving as a consultant for the Lakers' crosstown rivals, the L.A. Clippers.

Also starring Sally Field, DeVaughn Nixon, Tamera Tomakili, and Michael Chiklis, the series "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" is on HBO and HBO Max, with a new episode every Sunday through May 8.