It’s a shame Magic Johnson doesn’t want to be a part of this new HBO series about the 1980s Showtime Los Angeles Lakers. The trailer for Winning time: the rise of the Lakers dynasty, was released in early December and the series will debut on HBO Max in March 2022.
TMZ Sport asked Johnson if he was thrilled with the series. He said, “No”, “I can’t wait” and “We have several shows coming out.”
Antoine Fuqua – director of Training day And The equalizer – is working with Los Angeles Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss on a nine-part docuseries on the history of the franchise. Many of the great Lakers, including Johnson, Pat Riley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson have been interviewed for this series which will premiere on Hulu in 2022. Buss is also the executive producer of Mindy Kaling Netflix comedy about a fictional female ruler of an NBA franchise.
Those projects might be great, but none of them focus on this important era that probably saved the NBA.
In 1979, the NBA’s future was in doubt as the league had become too black for white America, just 11 years after the civil rights movement’s last major piece of legislation, the Fair Housing Act, was passed. it was high with buses and school desegregation in major cities, and the Supreme Court began to withdraw civil rights legislation the decade after much of it was passed. Combine that with one of the first bad television partnerships with CBS ea despised a former business partner in the late Roone Arledge, the NBA Finals aired on a delayed basis.
That was the year Johnson was drafted into the NBA’s first franchise and quickly went from winning the NBA Finals MVP on the taped delayed broadcast to becoming the most famous person in Los Angeles. TV stars, movie stars, the Jacksons, all wanted to date Johnson and kind Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
This era has been explored earlier in documentaries, one of the best being that of HBO Magic & Bird: The courtship of rivals, directed by Ezra Edelman – Emmy Award Winner for ESPN’s GU: Made in America. Jackie MacMullan, writer of a book about Johnson and his rival-turned-friend Larry Bird – When the game was ours – was extensively featured in that documentary.
Winning Time is by Adam McKay – director of Step brothers And Don’t look up – and is based on Jeff Pearlman’s book about the 1980s Lakers titled Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s.
At first I was not too convinced of the project having read and seen a lot about those Lakers and then I saw the trailer that opens with John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss said, “There are two things in this world that make me believe in God. This is sex and basketball.”
McKay caught me like a fish with that.
Then I thought about it more closely, and if ever there was a television series about a sports team, there was no better team than those Lakers. For one, it’s basketball, so no helmets or hats, and it’s the perfect time frame too. All the “No means No” and former president Ronald Regan wanting to start the world over, while on one side of Los Angeles is sex, drugs and rock and roll party, and on the other side Operation Hammer is fully booked by the LAPD occupying south central L.A. as if it had conquered a foreign land. In the midst of it all, the Lakers are playing in South Central, Inglewood, California, and dealing with racial tension in the sport as they party with the loving and free Hollywood snorting.
That’s why it would have been great for Johnson to be a part of this project in some way or at least embrace it. He was the king of Hollywood. He was at all the best parties and even if he wasn’t a drinker or addict. The man was hanging out with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in the 1980s. Johnson was in the mix as any human could be. If you thought the late Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories was fun, it would be with Johnson There’s no need for any other sketches on the Chappelle Show.
Also, it would have been nice to see clips where he dates the young actor who plays him, Quincy Isaiah, just like Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles during the filming of the film Ray. Alas, it didn’t have to be.
Johnson will tell his story in the Hulu docuseries and anywhere else the way he wants, with the people he wants to tell it with. This is its prerogative. I’ll take a look at this HBO project again, but I wish Johnson was at least a little excited about it.