‘Winning Time’: When the NBA went pop

The Lakers helped transform the NBA from a fringe sports league into a titan, which set the stage for Jordan and, later, Kobe Bryant to help make the game a global phenomenon. As McKay said, the Lakers “changed the fashion, the music, the way people behaved, the way they talked.”

“It’s a blast that rarely happens in any form of culture,” he continued, “not to mention sports.”

With Bird, Johnson became a star like no other basketball player before. He and Bird appeared in TV commercials together and struck huge endorsement deals. When Johnson – a heterosexual athlete who averaged 12.5 assists and 19.4 points per game – announced in 1991 that he was HIV-positive and was retiring, it sent shockwaves around the world. whole. Pau Gasol, from Spain, said he was so inspired by Johnson’s press conference that he vowed as a boy to find a cure for HIV. Instead, he became an NBA All-Star, which helped lead the Lakers to multiple championships.

Some of the story’s key figures have publicly stated that they were unhappy with the series, including Johnson. (Neither the central characters portrayed nor the Lakers organization were involved in the production.) In an email, a spokeswoman for Abdul-Jabbar described the series as “based on a fictional narrative taken from a book” written by “a foreigner”, adding that Abdul-Jabbar had not seen the spectacle and that “the story is best told by those who have lived it”.

Jeanie Buss, the majority owner of the Lakers and the daughter of Jerry Buss, who died in 2013, is the executive producer of a documentary series about the franchise for Hulu, which is set to debut this year. Johnson is developing one about his own life for Apple. (Spokespersons for Johnson and the Lakers declined to comment.)

“If I was Kareem for Magic or one of those guys, and I looked at him personally, like they were telling my story, that would probably feel weird to me too,” Rodney Barnes, executive producer and writer of the series, noted. But the creative team wanted to tell a story about everything that period encompassed, he added — not just about the Lakers but “America as a whole.”

And their story wouldn’t be the last version of the Showtime Lakers, Barnes acknowledged.

“There’s still a lot of meat on that bone,” he said.

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