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Spending the weekend watching Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

A little diversion from this season’s NBA

1980 MBA Finals MVP Award - Magic Johnson Photo by Nick Machalaba/Penske Media via Getty Images

Let me state first and foremost that I am a Spurs fan, but I am also a fan of great sports TV and film. I recently caught Winning Time: The Rise of The Lakers Dynasty on HBO. Now, I would have watched the show anyway, but full disclosure, I am a fan of Jeff Pearlman, who wrote the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. It was actually a tweet from Pearlman that alerted me to the show, causing me to add the Max streaming app.

I first became aware of Pearlman during the pandemic when he was promoting his book Football for a Buck, about the United States Football League. As a child obsessed with the USFL, I was instantly taken and began collecting his other works. Showtime, being a basketball biography, gripped me shortly thereafter.

The show could not be called “Showtime” as it was being developed by HBO, whose rival is a network called Showtime.

The story starts with Jerry Buss (played by John C. Reilly) devising a plan to buy an NBA team. Throughout, he manipulates people and situations to get what he wants and cover what he doesn’t have, mostly money.

The story also follows Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) from the end of his college career into the his genesis with the Lakers.

The cinematography of the show is amazing. So much of what is shot looks like original documentary footage. The mix of music and pop culture resonates without being cheesy or forced. The acting is solid. At times, many of the characters feel over the top, but the show (and book) contend that this was the actual case. One standout performance comes from Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

There is so much to like about the series if you are into this era of basketball. there are also lots of small references and comments that will serve as Easter eggs to some older viewers.

That said, Winning Time is not for young audiences. Lots of gratuitous nudity and sexual references as well as drug references, adult language, themes, and some violence.

While I would rather watch anything Spurs, there is no storyline associated with the franchise that requires more than a PG rating. In most cases, that is a good thing, it just wouldn’t make for interesting television in Hollywood.

If even half of what transpires in this series is remotely close to true, it is easy to understand why the Spurs (and probably 27 other franchises) are considered boring.

Either way, with the rain and cold passing through this weekend, I am going to get caught up in season two, the last episodes of a gripping series.

Have you seen the show (or read any of Pearlman’s books)? Share in the comments.


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