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Why HBO'S Winning Time is not a Winner in my mind
5) Also, check out my updated review of “Winning Time”, Article 33) in the archives section <41st OP>
For basketball fans, those of the NBA in particular, you must have heard about HBO’S “Winning-Time” about the 1980s Showtime Lakers, by now. The stars are naturally Magic and Kareem, along with Hall-of-Fame Coach Pat Riley, as well as the greatest GM ever in Jerry West, and the greatest NBA owner ever in Dr. Jerry Buss. In fact, even Larry Bird’s character makes a few appearances in this show too.
The creation of “Winning Time” was inspired by Jeff Pearlman’s NY Times best selling book “Showtime”. But, despite all the winning the Lakers did, the charisma of Magic Johnson and the fascinating character that is Dr. Jerry Buss, the HBO show gets so much wrong. How could that be?
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Well the first ominous sign is the fact that HBO was too scared to keep the actual name of that Lakers dynasty “Showtime” as to not promote one of their main competitors in cable TV, also known as Showtime. Secondly, and in some ways most importantly - they make a raging fool out of Jerry West that any NBA Historian or history buff has to say that this show is now purely fiction. In a conversation with my uncle and cousin about Jerry West’s potential lawsuit against the show, my cousin calls Jerry West a snowflake for this. In fairness, my cousin isn’t much of a basketball fan.
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I think it’s royally messed up to denigrate THE LOGO of the NBA and a man who has had such an impact on the game of basketball. I mean, his influence on the game is not only felt to this day, but is still being shaped by him to this day.
I really enjoyed Pearlman’s book, but the way HBO ran with this series, I find it to be majorly disappointing. And no, I’m not going to go into the drama behind the casting, although that is fascinating theater. Rather, I just am sticking with the fact that this show really is a major F-U! to the Lakers organization in a lot of ways.
For myself, I have only watched the pilot episode, out of mere curiosity for what the fuss is about. But famous sports writers like Bob Ryan have commented on the fiction of it. And Kareem Abdul Jabbar has commented on how disparaging it is to him and others. The Kareem part, in the pilot episode
I actually did find it kind of funny (no pun intended). Unfortunately, his reputation has been cultivated over a long period of time (for better and worse). But the disparagement of Jerry West, I can’t quite get over. Or how they make Pat Riley look like such a dork. Like, what?!
In talking to other friends who have watched the show, they essentially say it’s like candy for the mind. Other friends have asked me for my advice if they should watch it. Maybe I shouldn’t be the authority on this show, but I tell them, I’m passing on it. And maybe I should give this show another try. But, if I wanted to watch a fictional sports show that has some realness to it, I suppose I should just watch Billions. Or if I wanted “pure fiction”, I guess a good alternative to this is WWE.
Maybe I’m missing something. I mean this era of basketball was just before my time. My basketball watching experience started in 1991-92, during the time the Chicago Bulls captured their second of six championships. This was the year after the Showtime Lakers era was officially over! An era which, btw - was captured beautifully in Jeff Pearlman’s book. The show does make interesting references to LA in the 1980s. But, again it was before my time, and it kind of eludes me. But then again this whole show kind of eludes me, too.
My final verdict; “Winning Time” simply isn’t worth my time at this time.
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