Exclusive First Look: Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty Season 2
For a certain cross section of basketball nerds and Succession fans who needed another quippy, power-struggle-heavy series in their lives, Spring 2022 was all about one show: Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. The HBO series offered an appropriately over-the-top dramatization of the birth of the Showtime Lakers: Magic Johnson (played by a beaming Quincy Isaiah), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (newcomer Solomon Hughes), and legendary sports owner Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly—need I say more?).
Lakers lovers, Celtics haters—or vice versa, of course—we have good news: Season Two is coming later this summer. Though HBO hasn't announced an exact release date, they provided Esquire with an exclusive first look at the next season (which will cover multiple seasons, from 1980-84) of the basketball drama. To get the scoop on what we can expect in Winning Time's future, Esquire spoke to the series's showrunner, Max Borenstein, as well as its Executive Producer and director of three of the new season's seven episodes, Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Check out Season Two's official synopsis and a few glimpses of the action below.
Synopsis: Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty Season Two continues to explore the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers. This season hones in on the period just after the Finals in 1980 through 1984, culminating in the first professional rematch of the era’s greatest stars: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Cast: John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, Adrien Brody, Jason Clarke, Gaby Hoffmann, Jason Segel, Hadley Robinson, DeVaughn Nixon, Solomon Hughes, Tamera Tomakili, Brett Cullen, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Spencer Garrett, Molly Gordon, Joey Brooks, Delante Desouza, Jimel Atkins, Austin Aaron, McCabe Slye, Thomas Mann, Gillian Jacobs, with Michael Chiklis and Rob Morgan.
Credits: Executive Producers: Adam McKay and Kevin Messick (for Hyperobject Industries); Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer/Co-Creator: Max Borenstein; Executive Producer/Writer/Co-Creator: Jim Hecht; Executive Producer/Writer: Rodney Barnes; Executive Producer/Director of Episodes One, Six and Seven: Salli Richardson-Whitfield; Executive Producer: Scott Stephens; Executive Producer: Jason Shuman.
Nothing beats a pinky promise.
Don’t mess with Jeanie. (Or Claire.)
Yes, Season Two Will Absolutely Portray the Celtics of It All
BORENSTEIN: Season One is the story of a team coming together and winning its first championship. And we've always been interested in the question of what comes next in the traditional sports story. You come together, you win, and that's the end. You walk off into the sunset like a romantic comedy. But this is a series about a dynasty. And what comes after winning that first is not just winning another. It's exponentially harder. Everything that comes with winning and celebrity and all of the sort of challenges— especially in this moment in the '80s—[it's about] Magic and his nemesis Bird. These are the guys who turned basketball into the crucible of American culture that it became.
RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD: Sean [Patrick Small] was born to be Larry Bird. We get to explore that because you can't just do Magic and not do Larry, right? We explore more of Larry's past in a way that will be surprising and fun for people to see. Because you humanize Larry. He's such a kind of stoic, private figure. Knowing a little bit more about where he comes from helps the dynamic between the two of them.
Prepare For More Basketball!
RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD: The basketball this year is going to knock people [out]—their mind is going to be blown... What's exciting about the basketball is that we get to get inside of the game and the narrative of it. You see it from the outside. But to get in there and get those looks between the players—what we imagine they're saying in the huddle—and the looks like Magic and Bird when you're on the court? Those are fun moments to go along with the excitement all the big plays in the game. [How do we show] these iconic moments that we know, but still make them exciting? It was a really big challenge.
We missed you, Magic.
Winning Time Season Two, of course, has another owner-player relationship to explore: the one between Red Auerbach and Larry Bird.
What to Keep an Eye On
RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD: You see a little bit more about Buss's children, Johnny and Jimmy. How do they come into the mix? And Jeanie, you get more about who she becomes. Where is that drive and that need to lead? It's bringing the brothers in a little bit more, exploring Jeanie a little more. There's definitely some other people coming in.
BORENSTEIN: [Pat Riley's] arc is just extraordinary. I remember talking to Adrien [Brody] the first season about the fact that we're going to slow roll [his journey]. He was excited to get into the Armani suit and slick back the hair. And it's like, Oh, sorry, you've got a hippie mustache. It's going to take a minute before you become that guy, but that's going to make it all that much richer. This is the season where we start to see Pat Riley really start to bloom.
Growing Up Off the Court
BORENSTEIN: In so many ways, it's a season about different characters who become fathers and who are struggling with their own fathers. 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. 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. But he's also got Jeanie, who just wants to be seen by her father. And Larry Bird, he has a really tragic story having to do with his father that happens at the outset of his rise.
A look at Jerry West (anxious) and Jerry Buss (just trying to play some pool).
On Criticism From the Show's Real-Life Figures
BORENSTEIN: It's always a complicated thing, I'm sure, to have your own life presented on screen. I can't imagine what it would be like. I am sure I would be uncomfortable. But I will just say, that on our end we approached it with rigorous research—and our goal was really to be as respectful as possible to all these characters we love and admire. That's why we're telling the story to begin with. I can't get into any details, but I will say that there were a couple of people who reached out to us personally and it was all very positive. And I don't want to expose anyone, but we had some really nice positive feedback and that was really energizing, honestly—because it really is a love letter to these characters, to that era.
Any Plans Past Season Two?
BORENSTEIN: We're taking one decision at a time, just trying to kind of tell this section of the story in as compelling and captivating the way as we can. And we'll see how the audience responds. There's certainly a ton more story where this came from... There's a constant continuity. Jerry West is the guy who ended up trading for Shaq and drafting Kobe. So it's all sort of like a continuity of greatness that the Lakers have managed to build.
RICHARDSON-WHITFIELD: We have to wait till the season airs and we'll see where the future goes. But obviously, yeah, this show can go on until this last [Lakers game, versus the Denver Nuggets]. That is the beauty to the Lakers. Every season has brought on new players and new excitement and new journeys. I mean, with Kobe and Shaq, and now with LeBron, there's just so many stories to be told. It's endless.
From: Esquire US