Magic Johnson Says He ‘Won’t Watch’ HBO’s ‘Winning Time’: ‘You Can’t Duplicate’ Showtime Lakers Era

Earvin "Magic" Johnson explained that without the Lakers participating, "Winning Time" could never truly capture the Showtime era.
Magic Johnson

After producer Adam McKay revealed that his latest HBO series, “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” was made without the NBA’s involvement, Magic Johnson has spoken out on the series’ failure to capture the true Showtime era of the 1980s Lakers.

“It’s hard. I won’t watch it because it’s hard to duplicate,” Johnson told Entertainment Tonight at the Los Angeles premiere of Apple TV+’s “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.” “You can’t duplicate Showtime.”

Based on Jeff Pearlman’s book, “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty,” the  10-episode first season stars John C. Reilly as former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, with newcomer Quincy Isaiah playing Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former Harlem Globetrotter Solomon Hughes portraying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Johnson continued, “I’m not gonna watch. Now, if the Lakers or myself or some Lakers have something to do with it, then I would, but it’s just, you can’t copy that, it’s just too much.”

The NBA all-star noted, “First, on the court, I mean, we just did our thing, it was up and down. And then off the court — because unless you were a Laker, or you’re a Buss family [member] — because you can’t duplicate Dr. Jerry Buss — and the Laker Girls and Paula Abdul and what that meant, I mean, it started on the court and it went all the way up.”

A Lakers representative previously told THR, “We have no comment as we are not supporting nor involved with this project.”

Johnson also explained to the outlet that he was “not looking forward” to the premiere of “Winning Time,” and is instead focusing on his own upcoming four-part Apple TV+ docuseries, “They Call Me Magic.” Former teammate Abdul-Jabbar also noted that “the story of the Showtime Lakers is best told by those who actually lived through it.” Both Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson are participating in a “Lakers-sanctioned” Hulu docuseries to be released in late 2022.

“Winning Time” creator McKay assured, “We’re coming at this with good intentions, but these guys don’t know that. They’re used to a certain degree of media that’s always going after them, and if I could talk to them, I’d say, ‘No, no, don’t worry, we’re going to paint the whole picture,’ but I get it, they don’t know me or [showrunner] Max Borenstein, and it’s their right to really not like it.”
IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted that “expecting actors to play like NBA stars is an unreasonable ask” in his review of the series. “The show’s warping of history will undoubtedly rankle hoops aficionados,” Travers wrote. “But this is a Lakers show about Lakers legends made by Lakers fans, so what do you expect?”
“Winning Time” airs on HBO Max.
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