How A Former Los Angeles Laker Was Consulted For HBO's Winning Time, According To Co-Creator Jim Hecht

Quincy Isaiah and Solomon Hughes on Winning Time: The Rise o the Lakers Dynasty
(Image credit: HBO)

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty seems to be making a major impression. Though only one episode has aired thus far, fans and critics are apparently intrigued by the basketball show’s story. Meanwhile, NBA greats like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have admitted that they’re not too keen on watching the small-screen dramatization of their “Showtime” days. Not every former player feels like the legendary duo, though. As a matter of fact, one former LA player actually served as a consultant on HBO’s Laker series, according to co-creator Jim Hecht. 

The new show is based on Jeff Pearlman’s book, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, so there was source material to draw from. But when it came to fleshing out the show, it seems more creative input was needed. Co-creator Jim Hecht explained, during our recent interview, that he sought an old friend to help carve out some of the finer points of the NBA experience. The person in question: three-time NBA champion Rick Fox:

Well, knew Rick from, for lack of a better term, my party days in the ‘90s. Like I knew Rick when he was a player. When he won his first championship against Indiana, he threw me in his brother's pool. So I’ve known Rick for a long time, and for eight years, was saying, ‘You're going to be part of this. You're going to be part of this.’ He was like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ … As much [of] a fan as I am, Rick, he spent, you know, 20 years in locker rooms, so he can say here's what's going on in the locker room when this is going down. Here's what happens before Westhead comes in to give his, you know, pre-game speech. Here's the kind of things that are going to be said … like Magic comes back from an injury. Okay, what [are the] things that he doesn't know. He's like the rookies are going to be showing him up because they're all fighting tooth and nail for a team, and he doesn't know where to go. So he's making them look bad. So they're harping and yelling on him because their lives depend on [it]. You know, stuff like that, like, I would never think of. … And so Rick, all the corners are painted in, the things that make it feel alive and real, which is super important to me. A lot of that comes from Ray.

Rick Fox during Winning Time interview

(Image credit: HBO)

If anyone would know the intense atmosphere that comes with being on a winning NBA team, it would be Rick Fox. Drafted in 1991 by the Boston Celtics, the Canada native signed with the rival Lakers after being released by the team in 1997. Fox would join a team that consisted of All-Star Shaquille O’Neal and rising phenom Kobe Bryant. The team’s culture would immediately shift when former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson was hired in 1999. And from there, the organization would win three consecutive NBA championships. 

The athlete and actor retired in 2004, though his memories of his playing career are still incredibly vivid. Jim Hecht went on to explain that the star was very hands on when it came to sharing his experiences for Winning Time. One of the ways he helped out was by participating in a number of complex discussions amid shooting:

Yeah, we would have sideline conversations with [Rick] while we were shooting, [in] which he's like, ‘Okay, this guy's in the bathroom. And that guy, you know, is going to be worried about blah, blah, he's gonna be taped.’ … We had like 20 minutes of that shit written out that we could use on set to throw in. And it’s not just Rick being a professional athlete but being like a really pretty brilliant guy who can just think on his feet and has done OZ and knows production. There's no better, you know, person to marry production and basketball with than Rick Fox. Like, we scored.

Few would probably argue with those sentiments, especially when considering the authenticity that emanates from many of the scenes, especially those involving the players. Even scenes that take place outside the locker room – like Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon’s “tough” faceoff – feel somewhat grounded. It’s honestly pretty cool knowing that a basketball vet like Rick Fox had a hand in shaping the series’ atmosphere. Fans will surely be curious to see how else Fox impacted this interpretation of Jerry Buss and Magic Johnson’s quest for NBA supremacy as the series continues its run.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty airs new episodes on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, and they can be streamed afterwards with an HBO Max subscription. The series is only one of the many new shows premiering this year.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.