Magic Johnson Explains Why He's Not Watching HBO's Lakers Drama, Winning Time

Former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Magic Johnson gave his unfiltered take on HBO's decision to make Winning Time without consulting the athletes.

By Cydney Contreras Apr 05, 2022 6:21 PMTags
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HBO and executive producer Adam McKay have given the Lakers the Hollywood treatment in Winning Team, but according to one legendary player, it's missing the magic.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson made it clear he isn't a fan of the series, which is about the team's iconic Showtime era and based on the Jeff Pearlman's 2014 book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"First of all, you can't do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers," he told Variety in an April 5 interview. "The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys."

Magic acknowledged that the cast features talented actors, including Quincy Isaiah, John C. Reilly and Adrien Brody, as himself and the coaches, but stated, "I don't care who you get."

The star said it wasn't just about the players but the cheerleaders and other individuals who contributed to the games, giving a special shoutout to Lakers cheerleader Paula Abdul. "All the latest music, and all the latest dances," he remembered. "You can't duplicate that. We entertain you. Show you moves that you've only seen in the nightclub."

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That being said, it doesn't seem that the MVP has watched the show. In February, he said he outright refused to watch the series since nobody involved in the production had consulted the people involved in the real-life events. "Now, if the Lakers or myself or some Lakers have something to do with it," he told Entertainment Tonight, "then I would, but it's just, you can't copy that, it's just too much."

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

In response, McKay told The Hollywood Reporter, "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 [our showrunner] Max Borenstein, and it's their right to really not like it."

Instead of dwelling on HBO's interpretation of events, Magic has focused his energy on They Call Me Magic, a four-part Apple TV+ docuseries that has the Lakers' seal of approval. The show, premiering April 22, features interviews with President Barack ObamaLarry BirdPat Riley and more high-profile figures. 

The first four episodes of Winning Time is streaming now on HBO Max. New episodes air on Sundays.

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