Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty


HBO Max’s new series, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, is fun, fast-paced, and full of energy. The series takes a deep dive into one of the most famous basketball teams of all time—the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers. Winning Time provides an up-close view of the spectacular rise of the “Showtime Lakers” and the events that led them to become a storied franchise. Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht co-created this sports drama with the perfect blend of fact, fiction, and satire. The very first season of Winning Time is a show any sports fan would enjoy.

Winning Time walks the line between fiction and reality. The eccentric Jerry Buss, an American real estate tycoon, played to perfection by the incomparable John C. Reilly, is the first character that the audience gets to know. Throughout the entire series, Reilly shows off his versatility, balancing his childish humor, as seen in movies like Step Brothers, with passion and a more serious demeanor. The viewer spends most of the opening episode witnessing Buss’ good fortune as he purchases the Lakers in exchange for many of his real estate holdings, including the Chrysler Building in New York City. The show then shifts to Lansing, Michigan, and the audience meets Michigan State college basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Johnson, played by newcomer Quincy Isaiah, spends the first season learning about mental toughness, overcoming adversity, and what it means to succeed at the highest level in basketball.

The series is filmed on a moment-to-moment basis in a fun, fast-paced manner. Many characters speak directly to the camera at times, giving the audience a feeling that they are witnessing these events live. The show’s cinematography is excellent, and all of the clothing, music and locations are spot-on for the 1980s.

Season one covers the Lakers’ journey through the 1979-1980 season as Buss, General Manager Jerry West, Assistant Coach Pat Riley, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and rookie Magic Johnson overcome the highs and lows of a historic NBA season. Ultimately, the team comes together when it matters most and wins the NBA Championship over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Winning Time succeeds at showcasing binge-worthy TV at its best. The drama between the characters feels real even though it is an embellishment of actual events. The power clashes between coaches and management, the butting-heads of young stars and proven veterans, and the 80s-era partying make the show a must-watch for anyone who loves sports. Ten hour-long episodes make up the first season.

Despite how good the show is, I advise everyone who reads this review that Winning Time may not be the best show to watch with your parents. There are some graphic scenes and harsh language throughout the season. However, I can’t wait for season two of Winning Time. I am so excited to see how the show depicts the 1980-81 season and how the defending NBA champions evolve.