Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers not liking HBO’s Winning Time is what made it so good

Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers not liking HBO’s Winning Time is what made it so good

On Oct. 1, 2006, Marlo Stanfield infamously told a security guard at a grocery store on Monroe Street in Baltimore, Maryland, “You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.” Who would have known that 17 years later, the words from one of the most important characters from HBO’s best show — The Wire — would apply to Magic Johnson’s mentality when it comes to one the network’s most recently beloved and canceled showsWinning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.

You can’t have it both ways, Magic.

“Well, I never watched it because nobody in this world can tell the Lakers story [like it needed to be told]. The Showtime story? Nobody! Dr. Buss was way ahead of his time as an owner. Our team? Unbelievable! The Laker Girls with Paula Abdul? Unbelievable! Nobody can tell that story,” Johnson recently told The Hollywood Reporter. “So, none of us watched it because it was fictional. You just can’t tell that story. But, hey, that’s on them.”

Technically, that’s not true. Some of them definitely watched it.

“And the Larry Bird character, I thought that was great. It made me appreciate Larry Bird so much,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently told The Athletic. “I mean we hated him so much in L.A. it’s just hard to even think about. And just to see his backstory and what happened with him and the game, what a special athlete he was, and a trash-talker.”

From the beginning, it always felt like the Showtime Lakers hated Winning Time, despite this same level of fuss being absent when Jeff Pearlman’s book — on which the series was based — came out in 2014. Jerry West got so mad at his portrayal that he publicly demonized the series in a way that perfectly matched the way his character was portrayed, as he demanded an apology and retraction for “baseless and malicious assault” on his name.

“The portrayal of NBA icon and L.A. Lakers legend Jerry West in Winning Time is fiction pretending to be fact — a deliberately false characterization that has caused great distress to Jerry and his family,” wrote West’s attorney.

Kareem was pissed, too — which was par for the course.

“Each character is reduced to a single bold trait as if the writers were afraid anything more complex would tax the viewers’ comprehension,” he wrote on his Substack page, after calling the series “deliberately dishonest” and “drearily dull.” 

“Jerry Buss is Egomaniac Entrepreneur, Jerry West is Crazed Coach, Magic Johnson is Sexual Simpleton, I’m Pompous Prick. They are caricatures, not characters. Amusement park portraits that emphasize one physical feature to amplify your appearance — but never touching the essence.”

Sexual simpleton, you say?


“Like I said, women have different fantasies. Some want to be with two to three at a time. One time I had six at one time,” Magic Johnson said in an old televised interview in which he openly discussed his sexual history, which included sex in elevators and offices.

Magic Johnson opens up about sexual escapades, fantasies with women in old interview

The irony to all of this is that we’re in a moment in which sports docuseries and documentaries have hit an all-time high, and most of them suck because they’re one-sided propaganda in which the subjects are involved, giving a skewed and subjective tone — objectivity doesn’t exist.

“If I do, I got two of the biggest friends in the business, [Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson],” said Johnson when THR asked if he would tackle his own life story in a narrative format. “So, if I ever do it, it would be with one of my friends because they already know me. We’ll see.”

Funny enough, Johnson already has. Last year, Johnson released They Call Me Magic, a four-part docuseries on Apple TV+ — which featured Jackson. Here’s the kicker, you could argue that the things Johnson put in his own series were more damaging than what audiences saw in two seasons of Winning Time, as one episode was dedicated to his relationship with his wife and all the drama he put her through before they got married.

Last year, the Buss Family also did the same when Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers was released on Hulu. The 10-part series was from the point of view of the family that owns the franchise, but also aired some dirty laundry in the last episode when Jeanie Buss revealed that in 2018 the family learned that they had a secret sister — Lee Klose — who had been given up for adoption as an infant.

“She was able to get her birth certificate and she sent copies of that,” Buss says on camera. “So I immediately recognized my father’s and mother’s signatures. She sent copies of pictures of her. She looked just like my mom. I remembered my mom told me a story about how she and my father had a child before [eldest son] Johnny was born and they gave her up for adoption.”

After all that, Magic Johnson and some of the Lakers are still mad at how a canceled television show, that was based on a book, depicted them when multiple people who were directly connected to that team released their own series and gave us more drama than anything HBO’s Winning Time could ever imagine. Marlo Stanfield was a prophet. 

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.