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#pounditSunday, November 27, 2022

‘Airplane!’ filmmakers speak out against HBO’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar portrayal

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaking

Feb 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks as Clyde Drexler looks during the 2014 NBA All-Game Legends Brunch at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The portrayal of Jerry West on HBO’s “Winning Time” is apparently not the only one creating problems.

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, the filmmakers responsible for the 1980 hit movie “Airplane!” spoke out against the depiction of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Winning Time,” the popular television series. The trio was specifically upset about a scene during a recent episode that showed Abdul-Jabbar (who is being played by actor Solomon Hughes) telling a child actor who asked for his autograph on the set of “Airplane!” to “F— off, kid.”

“We had never seen anything like that on the ‘Airplane!’ set,” Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker said in a letter to the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, during the “Airplane!” shoot, and in the years since, we’ve found Kareem to be both professional and kind.”

The trio also said they contacted Ross Harris, the actor who played the child that Abdul-Jabbar’s character interacts with in the actual “Airplane!” movie. Harris told them that the incident depicted in “Winning Time” “absolutely did not occur” and that “the entire experience with Kareem was positive.”

You can read the Abrahams-Zucker-Zucker letter in full here.

Abdul-Jabbar’s role as pilot Roger Murdock in “Airplane!” is one of the most iconic athlete cameos in film of all-time. The Basketball Hall of Famer also shared a legendary story a couple years ago about how he landed the role.

As for “Winning Time,” it has been a hit with fans but not so much with the subjects being portrayed in it. Abdul-Jabbar himself was unhappy with the series before it even came out, and West has taken even more drastic steps in response to his depiction.


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