Winning Time’s Magic Johnson Actor Responds To The NBA Legend’s Criticism Of The HBO Show

For the past several weeks, sports fans and casual viewers alike have been enthralled by HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. The series has received mostly positive reviews, with many lauding the work of the ensemble cast. The show’s Magic Johnson actor, Quincy Isaiah, has received a considerable amount of praise for his turn as the NBA legend. However, the actual Johnson isn’t a big fan of the dramedy series, and Isaiah is now addressing the former Laker’s criticisms of the show. 

Initially, Earvin “Magic” Johnson had few words for the HBO series, only saying that he wasn’t looking forward to it. He later expanded on those thoughts and asserted that the Winning Time producers “can’t duplicate Showtime.” This, of course, refers to the highly successful era of Lakers basketball that Johnson helped lead alongside stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who’s also been critical of the project). With this, the former point guard has been adamant about not wanting to check the show

Quincy Isaiah recently caught up with TMZ, during which he was asked about the hall of famer’s critiques. The up-and-coming performer (and former ball player) was reasonable in his assessment. While he defended his show’s take on the iconic sports team’s heyday, he also empathized with the five-time NBA champion’s perspective:

I mean, I understand where they coming from because it's a story about their life. So, it's tough. But I really feel like we did a really good job of showing humans and showing a full version of who we at least perceive them to be. There's no malice behind it.

Winning Time chronicles the ups and downs of the Los Angeles Lakers at the onset of the ‘80s, during which new owner Jerry Buss seeks to return the team to basketball dominance. Magic Johnson is a major part of the ambitious (and somewhat reckless) entrepreneur’s plans. Though Johnson is depicted as a talented, intelligent and relatively friendly person, the show also shows him wrestling with his immaturity and womanizing ways. 

While speaking with the news outlet, Quincy Isaiah went on to stress the fact that the program is merely a dramatization of real events. He also showed reverence to the basketball great he portrays on screen:

At the beginning and end of every episode it says 'this is a dramatization.’ We take real facts that happen, and we make it good for TV. … Magic, man, I love you dude. You literally lived an incredible life so that I could ... I'm getting into an Escalade because he lived an incredible life. I have nothing but love and respect for that man.

It’s tough to say if his words will sway Magic Johnson to change his mind and check out the show. Regardless, you have to appreciate the sheer level of respect that Quincy Isaiah has for one of the NBA’s most notable icons.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET, which can later be streamed by those with HBO Max subscriptions. Those looking for more Laker-related content  can check out Magic Johnson’s Last Dance-inspired docuseries, They Call Me Magic, which you can stream with an Apple TV+ subscription starting April 22.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.