Drama series ‘Winning Time’ offers warts-and-all look at 1980s Lakers dynasty
By Guillermo Azabal
Los Angeles, Mar 3 (EFE).- “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” a new HBO sports drama series set to premiere on Sunday, offers an insider’s look at the NBA while also revealing the hidden side of the glamorous 1980s Los Angeles Lakers dynasty led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The series examines the good and the bad of the world’s most important basketball league and takes some of the shine off of the so-called Showtime Lakers, whose five championships and electrifying style of play thrilled their fans, sent their sport’s popularity into the stratosphere and made their superstars into pop culture icons.
The eight-episode series is directed and co-produced by Adam McKay, whose recent hits include the American black comedy drama series “Succession,” the Dick Cheney biographical film “Vice” and the apocalyptic comedy “Don’t Look Up.”
“Winning Time” is an adaptation of Jeff Pearlman’s 2014 biography “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.
“It’s an American story, but I think it’s something that’s rooted in a global experience. It’s about these two worlds of basketball and the business behind basketball meeting to create this living, breathing thing that goes on to change the game that they play and change the world that we now live in today,” actor Quincy Isaiah, who plays legendary point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson in the series, told Efe in an interview.
“The fact that I’m even sitting here talking to you about basketball is part of the vision that this story helped create.”
Isaiah and co-star Solomon Hughes (who plays center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer) are actors with a short track record in the entertainment industry, but this series is giving them a taste of the limelight and the pressure that goes with it.
Current Lakers superstar and global sports icon LeBron James has been hyping the series on Twitter after watching the trailer and basketball fans in general are looking forward to a new mega-hit that rivals of the success of Netflix’s “The Last Dance,” a 2020 documentary miniseries on Michael Jordan and particularly his final season with the Chicago Bulls.
However, the vast majority of the members of that 1980s Lakers squad have turned a cold shoulder to “Winning Time” and refused to contribute their vision to the production.
The creators of the series said that lack of cooperation forced them to conduct their own research to fill in some gaps.
The series shines a spotlight on the tremendous skills of a spectacular group of players, but it also examines the egomaniacal facet of superstars who let their outsized success go to their heads.
Some of the figures of those 1980s Lakers whose portrayal in the series is not always flattering include the then-majority owner of the franchise, the late Jerry Buss; its head coach and general manager during that era, Pat Riley and Jerry West; and star players like Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar.
In their remarks to the media, Hughes and Isaiah have said they want to focus on the positive aspects of the series and insisted that they are admirers of the players they portray on screen.
But they also are well aware that the series may ruffle some feathers.
“Winning Time” will be the first in a line of new Lakers-themed television projects.
Hulu is developing a documentary series that chronicles the history of basketball’s most marquee franchise, while a docuseries set to debut in April on Apple TV+ will examine the life and career of Magic Johnson. EFE