NBA Legend Magic Johnson Has Short And Not-So-Sweet Message For HBO's Los Angeles Lakers Series

After the success of The Last Dance on ESPN and Netflix, which documented the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 championship season, it wasn’t even a question that viewers would be in for more TV series exploring the greatest teams and icons in sports history. The Los Angeles Lakers were an obvious choice, with Magic Johnson helping to lead his team to five NBA championships in the 1980s with their fast-paced offense, and several projects are in the works surrounding that era. One of them, however, doesn’t seem to have the support of the main man, as Johnson kept it short and not so sweet when talking about HBO's upcoming Lakers series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.

Unlike The Last Dance and other docuseries that have come out in the past couple of years, Winning Time is a dramatized retelling of the era, with an extensive cast that includes John C. Reilly as longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson. The series is based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman. When Johnson was asked about the upcoming HBO series, his response to TMZ was less than enthusiastic.

I'm not looking forward to it. I'm going to leave it at that.

I’m sure a dramatized version of the events that defined Magic Johnson’s basketball career could be polarizing, especially if the show is as sensationally entertaining as the trailer makes it look. Adam McKay’s series appears to have all the funk and 'fros and short shorts that defined 1980s professional basketball, with plenty of sex and Lakers girls to boot. Take a look at the trailer for yourself.

If you’re looking for The Last Dance, you will not find it here. Winning Time looks like an almost satirical take on the famed "Showtime" era. Perhaps that’s why Magic Johnson seems more interested in the nonfiction projects that are devoted to telling the more sports-centric story of one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. Johnson was much more willing to express his support when it came to those, saying:

No, we got different shows coming out. I got one, then you got Jeanie Buss [who] got one on Showtime coming out. Those are the ones I'm looking forward to.

Magic Johnson’s attachment to his own docuseries was announced in June 2020 through a partnership with documentary company XTR, with the superstar providing “unprecedented access” to never-before-seen footage, as well as interviews from the worlds of sports, business and politics. Apple TV+ has scored the rights to the four-part, as-yet-untitled series, and you can bet the company will be playing up the Hall of Famer's approval with its promotional campaign. 

Meanwhile, we can also look forward to a 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. Early on in 2021, Hulu ordered a nine-part docuseries that will chronicle four decades of the legendary franchise, the Buss family business, and the team’s iconic players and coaches.

I can definitely see how docuseries similar to that of The Last Dance would be more in the wheelhouse of Magic Johnson and other athletes when compared to more dramatized and sensational fare like the HBO project, but the legend’s apparent disdain for Winning Time this far ahead of its release is still somewhat surprising. 

No release dates for the docuseries have been announced yet, but Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty will hit HBO sometime in March. In the meantime, dribble on over to our 2022 TV Schedule to see what else is coming up in the new year.

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.