Dec 10, 2021 - Sports

HBO Max's 1980s Showtime Lakers series is already causing drama

A scene from HBO Max's "Winning Time"

Courtesy: HBO

HBO Max's upcoming series about the 1980s "Showtime" Lakers doesn't air until March, but it's already causing drama.

Driving the news: The series — based on Jeff Pearlman's 2014 book, "Showtime" — released its first trailer on Thursday, a day after announcing the title: "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty."

  • "Winning time" is what Magic Johnson called the final minutes of close games, when he felt his team shouldn't lose on mental mistakes.
  • The cast has established stars like John C. Reilly (Jerry Buss) and Adrien Brody (Pat Riley), plus newcomers like Quincy Isaiah as Johnson (above) and DeVaughn Nixon as his father, Norm.
A scene from HBO Max's "Winning Time"
Courtesy: HBO

The backdrop: The drama began last week, when Vanity Fair published a profile of "Winning Time" creator, Adam McKay ("Succession," "The Big Short").

  • McKay and longtime partner Will Ferrell's production company split in 2019 as they pursued different types of projects. Then they stopped talking entirely, and it turns out "Winning Time" was the reason.
  • Ferrell wanted to be cast as Buss, but McKay didn't think he was the right fit and instead chose Ferrell's best friend, Reilly. When Ferrell found out (from Reilly, not McKay), their personal relationship soured.
A scene from HBO Max's "Winning Time"
Courtesy: HBO

The big picture: As word has gotten around from those who've seen the apparently raunchy pilot, the drama has only built.

  • The Buss family and NBA reportedly hate the series, with its misogyny and drug use making it feel like "a fictionalized '80s version of 'Entourage' or 'Ballers,'" per Puck's Matthew Belloni (subscription).
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played for the Showtime Lakers, thinks the story would be "best told by those who actually lived through it."
  • Deborah Morales, his longtime manager, was more blunt, telling Belloni: "I certainly hope I never bump into anyone associated with this show."

The bottom line: From a pure entertainment standpoint, this has all the makings of a hit. And any controversy ahead of the premiere will almost certainly mean more, not fewer, eyeballs.

Go deeper