Basketball

A winning streak about basketball and the LA Lakers: NPR

A winning streak about basketball and the LA Lakers: NPR

John C. Reilly is Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Quincy Isaiah is player Magic Johnson in the HBO series Winning time.

Warrick Page/HBO


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Warrick Page/HBO


John C. Reilly is Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Quincy Isaiah is player Magic Johnson in the HBO series Winning time.

Warrick Page/HBO

On Sunday, HBO premieres a new 10-part drama series about the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that dominated basketball in the 1980s. The series, for which Adam McKay produced and directed the pilot, named winning timeand I think this show is a winner – even if it shows its tone and approach, and goes out of its way to be out of the ordinary.

Think of the extraordinary appeal and success of ESPN the last dance in 2020. This series found as much drama off the court as it did about the rise of a later basketball dynasty – Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, who ruled the sport in the 1990s.

the last dance immersed in the stories of individual players, disputes between coaches and owners, and many side stories about racism, sex and sexist attitudes – not to mention the growing commercialization of sports endorsements. The series covered it all, dynamically – but in documentary form. winning time takes the fact-based dramatic approach, hiring actors to play familiar roles and taking dramatic license with certain events.

In reality, winning time takes a lot of license, in many ways. Eight of the 10 episodes were provided as previews, and like an athlete showing off, they’re constantly demanding — almost begging — for attention. Period music propels many scenes and nearly every edit. The sex scenes tend to be more graphic than expected. Split-screens and other busy visual tricks abound – and many characters break the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly, then stepping back into the scene.

It might all be too flashy and distracting, but the performance pulls you in and keeps it all afloat. That’s especially true of this show’s central star, John C. Reilly, who plays Jerry Buss, the Lakers’ ambitious new owner.

The supporting staff is represented by actors who, like Reilly, can play comedy and drama with equal effectiveness. Jason Clarke is extremely funny as the temperamental Jerry West. Adrien Brody is a different kind of funny — quiet and sad — as Lakers coach Pat Riley. And the actors portraying well-known Lakers stars — especially Quincy Isaiah as Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — pull off their portrayals with exceptional flair, both on and off the court.

One of the nicest surprises about winning time So as the episodes unfold, other strong actors join in the fun, including Michael Chiklis from The shield, who cuts a fierce figure as Boston Celtics general manager and president Red Auerbach. Another pleasant surprise is the amount of attention winning time dedicated to his wives. From company employees to players’ mothers, wives and girlfriends, they all have their chance to shine and have a say.

That’s especially true for Sally Field, who, wearing a blonde wig and a long cigarette holder, is virtually unrecognizable as the accountant and mother of Jerry Buss. When she introduces herself, she and Reilly start the scene by talking to the audience before moving on to dialogue, only to engage in caustic mother-son play.

Due to the cast, subject matter, and McKay’s approach to the story, I suspect that Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty will draw a big, cheering crowd — just like the Lakers did after drafting Johnson in 1979. And just like those Lakers, HBO seems hungry for more. The network is already talking about the possibility of extending winning time for additional seasons. The Lakers won by approaching the game differently, and this new HBO series appears to be drawing from the same unconventional playbook.