NBA Great Magic Johnson Explains Why He Won't Be Checking Out HBO's L.A. Lakers Drama Winning Time

Magic Johnson talks to ABC News.
(Image credit: ABC)

Quincy Isaiah is receiving plenty of praise from critics for his portrayal of Magic Johnson on the new HBO docudrama Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, but it doesn’t look like the NBA legend will be providing any specific feedback. Back before the Adam McKay project even hit the airwaves, Johnson had made his feelings known, saying only that he was “not looking forward to” the new series. His feelings haven’t changed since then, but he did provide a little more context about why he won’t be watching Winning Time

Based on Jeff Pearlman's book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, HBO's Winning Time first focuses on the Lakers in 1979, the year Earvin “Magic” Johnson was drafted to the NBA. Adam McKay & Co. dramatized the events surrounding what would become the “Showtime Lakers,” the lightning-in-a-bottle dynasty that dominated the sports world on the court and the pop culture world off of it. However, the experience of living through that was so unique that Johnson told ET it can’t be re-created:

It's hard. I won’t watch it because it’s hard to duplicate. You can’t duplicate Showtime. . . . First, on the court, I mean, we just did our thing, it was up and down. And then off the court — because unless you were a Laker, or you’re a Buss family [member] — because you can’t duplicate Dr. Jerry Buss — and the Laker Girls and Paula Abdul and what that meant, I mean, it started on the court and it went all the way up.

Magic Johnson experienced a truly magical moment in time during his years with the Los Angeles Lakers, who won five NBA championships in the 1980s. Thus, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t trust the retelling of that era to people who didn’t go through that with him, even if the series is based on what appears to be a well-researched book. 

That’s probably a big reason why the NBA great is involved in his own upcoming project, They Call Me Magic, a four-part documentary coming to Apple TV+ on April 22. This series sounds to me a lot more like the Chicago Bulls’ The Last Dance, as Magic Johnson is providing “unprecedented access” to never-before-seen footage, as well as interviews from the worlds of sports, business and politics.

Hulu is also getting in on the Showtime Lakers’ game, with a reported nine-part docuseries from Jeanie Buss, president of the Los Angeles Lakers who, with her siblings, inherited controlling ownership of the team when their father died in 2013. That series — which will reportedly chronicle four decades of the Lakers franchise, the Buss family business, and the team’s iconic players and coaches — is set to premiere sometime in 2022.

In the meantime, we’ve got Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, led by John C. Reilly as Lakers owner Jerry Buss, alongside Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, Jason Clarke as Jerry West, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and many more. New episodes of Winning Time air at 9 p.m. ET Sundays on HBO and are available for streaming with an HBO Max subscription. Check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other new and returning shows are premiering soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.