Drama Series on 1980s Lakers Premieres Tonight on HBO

LA Lakers banner at the Staples Center from back

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 ``Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,'' a 10-episode drama series about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, premieres at 9 p.m. tonight on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max. ``It's a show about showmanship,'' co-creator, executive producer and showrunner Max Bornstein said last month during the CTAM Winter Press Tour.

``This is a moment where sports became entertainment.'' The first episode details the attempt by Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) to complete his purchase of the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke, and then-coach Jerry West's objection to the Lakers using the first choice in the 1979 NBA draft on Magic Johnson out of the belief that at 6-feet-9 inches tall, his dribbles would be high, causing many turnovers.

  It also includes a re-creation of the scene from the classic 1980 film comedy ``Airplane!'' where a boy visiting the cockpit realizes co-pilot Roger Murdock is really Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who he thinks is the greatest, but whose father thinks doesn't work hard enough on defense except during the playoffs. The episode is directed by Adam McKay, who has directed such films as ``Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,'' ``Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'' and ``Step Brothers.'' He is also among the series' executive producers.

  The cast also includes Quincy Isaiah as Johnson, Jason Clarke as West, Adrien Brody as Pat Riley, Jason Segel as Paul Westhead, DeVaughn Nixon as his father Norm Nixon, Solomon Hughes as Abdul-Jabbar and Sally Field as Buss' mother Jessie. The series is based on the 2014 book, ``Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s'' by Jeff Pearlman. Finding actors to portray Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar ``was the singlehardest casting challenge I've ever encountered,'' McKay said.

  ``It was crazy, and to this day, I can't believe Quincy and Dr. Hughes came our way,'' McKay said. ``These guys can play ball and they're really talented actors.'' Isaiah's only previous film or television credit was the 2018 short film, ``Corporate Coffee.'' The 6-foot-11-inch Hughes had never acted before ``Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.'' He played basketball for the University of California from 1998-02, averaging 6.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 121 games for the Golden Bears, including 52 starts. The alumnus of Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance later played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

 Hughes has a doctorate in higher education research and policy studies from the University of Georgia and has taught at Duke and Stanford.

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