Wigs and gym shorts heavy, the 70s and 80s are in full force in HBO’s latest period drama. The television honcho unlocks and reimagines events of the Showtime Lakers in a land where Los Angeles glamour and glitz meet domination on the hardwood. HBO and HBO Max roll out episodes of original drama series Winning Time: the Rise of the Lakers Dynasty every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET and PT.
The coaches, players, executives, and cheerleaders of the Showtime era all contributed to the legacy of the Los Angeles Lakers being an unparalleled franchise in the National Basketball Association’s 75-year history. Two decades into their residence in the City of Angels, the team ignited a stroke of energy, showmanship, and game that led to five championships within the late 70s to early 90s. In comparison, rivals Boston Celtics earned three in that same time span.
The franchise’s success also propelled the immense personalities of its members into Hollywood celebrities. With colossal stardom in and out of California, these past figures catapulted the Los Angeles Lakers into the household name it is today with basketball fans and those outside of sports and the United States. Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon, and Jerry Buss threw the lob so that modern-day athletes could embrace a capacity for influence in their crafts, on the social scene, and in entertainment.
To play these illustrious masterminds of game, HBO drafted a range of stars in their own right. For DeVaughn Nixon, household memorabilia and memories growing up helped him portray father Norm Nixon. Other actors cast as players looked towards their youthful experiences with a basketball in hand or on-screen. Actors cast as Lakers players during the Showtime period include: Quincy Isaiah (Magic Johnson), DeVaughn Nixon (Norm Nixon), Solomon Hughes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Delante Desouza (Michael Cooper), Jimel Atkins (Jamaal Wilkes), Austin Aaron (Mark Landsberger), and Jon Young (Brad Holland).
Executives, front-office staff, coaches, and other power figures include: John C. Reilly (Jerry Buss), Hadley Robinson (Jeanie Buss), Jason Clarke (Jerry West), Adrien Brody (Pat Riley), Gaby Hoffmann (Claire Rothman), Tracy Letts (Jack McKinney), Jason Segel (Paul Westhead), Brett Cullen (Bill Sharman), Stephen Adly Guirgis (Frank Mariani), Molly Gordon (Linda Zafrani), and Joey Brooks (Lon Rosen). Analyst and commentator Chick Hearn also gets a nod through actor Spencer Garrett.
With a combination of creative liberty and imitation of real life, the roles of Sally Field (Jessie Buss) and Rob Morgan (Earvin Johnson, Sr.) as parents of key figures aid in character development and drama. An added layer, Julianne Nicholson (Cranny McKinney), Tamera Tomakili (Earlitha “Cookie” Kelly), and Sarah Ramos (Cheryl Pistono) play the romantic partners of players and coaches.
Altogether, Winning Time: the Rise of the Lakers Dynasty accentuates the bold and unique psyches amid halls of The Forum. The production team excels at balancing vintage motifs, humor, and styles. It’s campy like any good 1970s work of entertainment. Costume and makeup crews not only foster a sense of timewarp but also thrush each actor into an uncanny metamorphosis—much like past projects directed by Adam McKay like Talladega Nights, Anchorman, and Vice. Unforgettably, writers and executive producers Max Borenstein, Jim Hecht, and Rodney Barnes seamlessly squeeze quips into dramatic scenes. Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or not, the dry humor is enough enticement to anxiously await another episode.