‘Winning Time’ Season 2 Promises to Dig into Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s Rivalry

With its heavy dose of sports  nostalgia  and patented Adam McKay snappy dialogue, HBO’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty was a series that appealed to both basketball lifers and fans of high-octane prestige TV in general. The first season, which wrapped last May, centered on the 1979-80 season, and the bond formed between marquee rookie Magic Johnson (portrayed by gifted newcomer Quincy Isaiah) and team owner Jerry Buss (an excellent John C. Reilly). Now we finally have a season 2 trailer and premiere date— —August 6 and it promises even more fast breaks, flashing lights, and fiery competition.

“It’s not about basketball, it’s about winning,” Buss exclaims as the trailer begins.

The latest teaser plays into the storied mythology of  Johnson’s rivalry with Larry Bird (played by Sean Patrick Small). “How about this for a headline? The greatest who ever lived is a goddamn Celtic,” one executive says. Bird was a character in the first season, but his role seems to be greatly expanded here. Based on an impassioned speech from Pat Riley (Adrien Brody), this season may focus specifically on the 1983-84 season, the first time in the Johnson and Bird era that Los Angeles and Boston met in the NBA finals. “They’ve won their rings, we’ve won ours. None of it means shit ‘cuz it wasn’t against them,” Riley seethes.

In a June 5 interview, showrunner Max Borenstein and executive producer/director Salli Richardson-Whitfield shared some insight into what takes place in the second season. “The basketball this year is going to knock people [out],” Richardson-Whitfield promised, since depicting thrilling in-game action can often be a challenge of fictionalized sports media. Borenstein also said that Riley becomes the towering NBA figure he’s now known as during season two, and that fatherhood is an important theme that connects several key characters.

“You’ve got Magic, who becomes a father for the first time. Kareem welcomes a new son and is seeking to do it differently, be a bit more present,” Borenstein said. “Jerry Buss, obviously, he has this family and he’s trying to kind of be a father that he never had. And he’s bringing his son to the equation, who we get to explore more deeply this year.”

Though the series has earned acclaim from critics, some of the real-life figures portrayed have reacted harshly, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who published an essay titled, “Winning Time Isn’t Just Deliberately Dishonest, It’s Drearily Dull” in April 2022.

It’s obviously too early to think ahead, but there’s certainly enough drama in the Lakers’ hallowed history to sustain the show for years. Just imagine a season about the 2020 Bubble title or the impressive playoff run of the 2022-23 Lakers that ends on a cliffhanger with LeBron James contemplating retirement.

Kim Rodiz

Kim Rodiz is a national journalist who wrote a lot of reports since 2014.

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