HBO’s ‘Winning Time’ hits the mark

(News4usonline) – Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers owned the 1980s. During that decade, the charismatic conductor of the Lakers’ “Showtime” era, guided the franchise into nine NBA Finals appearances, coming up with five titles.

Not too bad for a 6-foot-9 point guard coming out of East Lansing, Michigan. When the Lakers drafted Johnson as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. that move moved the organization into marketing and basketball superiority across the league.

Quincy Isaiah, Solomon Hughes from the HBO docu-series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dysnasy.” Photo by Warrick Page/HBO

More importantly, it helped propelled the Lakers to be on equal footing with the heralded Boston Celtics. Both the Lakers and Celtics have 17 championships. Johnson is a Hall of Famer and is now known as a worldwide entertainment and sports mogul.

That’s because one man had the fortitude and vision to transform the Lakers into one of the popular franchises in all of sports. That one man would be Dr. Jerry Buss. Buss bought the Lakers in 1979 from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million.

As of 2021, the Lakers’ net value or worth is $5.5 billion, according to the statistical website Statista.

The origins of Buss coming on the NBA scene and building his empire while invigorating the ballclub that he purchased, is well-channeled in the docu-series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”

If the series is as detailed, well-acted, and unapologetically raw and straightforward as the first two episodes, then this ride is worth the trip for fans as well as casual observers of the sport to jump on.

John C. Reilly as Dr. Jerry Buss in the HBO docu-series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Photo by  Warrick Page/HBO

If you think you’re going to tune in to watch some fairytale of sorts, think again. There are no punches held back in this one, no make-believe fantasy going on here. “Winning Time” is a no-holds bar series that is truly about grown folks business.

There is nudity, some graphic sex scenes going on and enough explicit language going around to decorate as bulbs on a Christmas tree.

In the greater context to all of that, HBO gets it right in flushing out the intimate offerings on all of what goes on in everyday life of the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes of a fledging NBA franchise, the mental tug-of-war that goes through the mind of a prized basketball star of reaching fame while trying to balance his family upbringing.

In this case, we’re talking about the Lakers and the mercurial Johnson, who led Michigan State to an NCAA championship before declaring for the NBA after his sophomore season. Before he joined Los Angeles, the Lakers were good but boring to watch, much like the rest of the NBA.

The bodacious Buss believed he had what it took to alter the landscape of both the Lakers and the league. From the opening scene of “Winning Time,” when he belts out “Basketball is like having great sex,” while lying in bed with a beautiful woman, we learned that Buss was a full-deck poker player.

Quincy Isaiah (Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Tamera Tomakili (Cookie Keely) in a scene from “Winning Time:: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Photo by  Warrick Page/HBO

Johnson, portrayed with aplomb by Quincy Isaiah, has the world knocking on his door with fame and richness awaiting his destined arrival into the NBA.

The only one who seems not impressed and not in the least bit interested in catering to Johnson’s irresistible charming ways is his faithful girlfriend Cookie Keely, who would later become the superstar’s wife (Cookie Johnson).

In one scene in Episode 2, Johnson professes his love for Keely. “I love you,” Johnson said.

To which Keely retorts, “Not as much as you loves you. The rest of us just coming off the bench.”

The best part of “Winning Time” is all the intimate details of who and what shaped the Lakers dynasty. Starting from Buss (John C. Reilly) and Jerry West (Jason Clarke) to Keely (wonderfully played by Tamera Tomakili) to Johnson’s mom (LisaGaye Hamilton) and father (Rob Morgan), the series comes with a superb level of acting that crafts “Winning Time” into a fantastic watch.

More than great entertainment value, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” gives us an upclose and realistic peek into the world of the Lakers dynasty. More on Episodes 3 through Episode 6 will be reviewed and posted Friday, March 11, 2022. Viewers can watch “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers on HBO weekly or stream it on HBO Max.

Featured Image: Quincy Isaiah as Earvin “Magic” Johnson in HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Photo by Warrick Page/HBO