The latest project from Anchorman and Don't Look Up filmmaker Adam McKay has arrived with the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. Based on Jeff Pearlman's book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, Winning Time tells the story of the NBA team’s domination of sports and pop culture throughout the '80s. Critics got to see eight of the first season's ten episodes before their release, and while we know Lakers legend Magic Johnson won’t be checking this one out, hopefully these reviews can help you decide if this groovy series is one you want to dive into.
Leading the cast is John C. Reilly as legendary team owner Jerry Buss, and he’s accompanied by a long list of talented players, including Quincy Isaiah as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jason Clarke as former Lakers star and general manager Jerry West, Adrien Brody as coach Pat Riley, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and many more. With so much talent both behind and in front of the camera, let’s see how Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty fared with critics.
Jack Hamilton of Slate says that as a fan of Adam McKay’s and basketball, he thinks Winning Time is just okay, and that it feels like a missed opportunity, especially with good performances by a handful of the actors, including Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson. Hamilton says there isn’t much basketball to be witnessed, and the HBO series is flashy without the substance to back it up:
Daniel D’Addario of Variety echoes the above sentiment, saying Winning Time is trying to convince viewers it’s fun, but forgets its fundamentals. He says even the Showtime Lakers wouldn’t have held fans’ attention if they didn’t have the talent to back up everything else. D’Addario also compliments Quincy Isaiah on his portrayal of No. 32, saying:
More positive was Dave Nemetz of TVLine, who calls the series a “wild, energetic slam dunk,” while giving it a grade of B+. Adam McKay and company probably bit off more than they can chew by featuring too many characters, this critic says, but the show’s dynamic style and the intriguing personalities make up for its misgivings.
Bill Goodykoontz of USA TODAY rates Winning Time 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that just like the team it’s based on, the HBO show is flashy, fast-paced, and fun to watch, and viewers don’t have to be up on basketball knowledge to enjoy it.
Josh Sorokach of Decider also points out that viewers don’t have to be basketball fans to enjoy Winning Time’s “sharp writing and dazzling performances,” but the series should be appointment viewing for NBA fans.
The critics seem to agree that newcomer Quincy Isaiah was the right choice to portray Lakers legend Magic Johnson, but it’s somewhat of a mixed bag as to how well the rest of the series comes together. Anybody looking to see Last Dance-levels of court-centered drama may be disappointed, but those hoping to see sports debauchery that doesn't happen much these days may be in for a treat.
If you want to give it a shot, Winning Time premieres on Sunday, March 6, at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see when new and returning shows are premiering.
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