Winning Time is the PERFECT Sports Drama

HBO’s Winning Time is an all-time great sports drama series, worthy of the praise that Dylan gives it in his Big Picture.

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Winning Time is the PERFECT sports drama

Dylan Bair: I wanted to talk about Winning Time and yes, Paul did give a bit of the game away. I believe it is the sports series that we all needed for this week’s Big Picture. I wanted to create a free endorsement, a free advertisement for HBO Max. The streaming platform that houses the best sports drama I’ve ever watched.

That show is Winning Time. The rise of the Lakers dynasty. It was created by Max Bornstein and Jim Hecht. I hope I pronounced that right. It was based on the novel Showtime by Jeff Perlman. He has written other novels, in specific a novel in regards to the three-peat Lakers team of the early 2000s.

I needed to use this space to talk about the series because it is my favorite TV show I’ve seen at least in the last two years. The acting is superb. Each role is cast perfectly. With career performances from John C. Reilly of Stepbrothers fame. He plays Dr. Jerry Buss, the owner of the Lakers. Quincy Isaiah is a dead ringer as Magic Johnson.

Amazing Cast

If you see photos of him on set, you would not be able to tell the difference. It is incredible how much he looks like Magic. Solomon Hughes is brilliant holding the pathos in the stoic self-seriousness of Kareem Abdul Jabbar. And Adrien Brody, the former proclaimed actor who won an academy award in 2002 for The Pianist.

In Winning Time, he plays the young version of Pat Riley and my favorite acting performance. This is not hyperbole. The greatest of the year, one of my top five favorite TV performances ever is Jason Clarke as Jerry West. Clarke in particular is a knockout as West.

He shows this unrepentant winning mentality. In the same way The Last Dance showed how Michael could be a bit of a dick in the way he wanted to pursue winning. Jerry West is very much in that same way.

It’s how one title isn’t enough for somebody who must always compete. It’s a cycle of hell that will never be broken. It can never be satiated. The happiness that you get from winning a title is a fleeting moment until the chase.

That competitive spirit is there again. And I think it’s extremely ironic that Jerry West, as Paul had mentioned before, hated his portrayal in the series.

Jerry West Hates His Portrayal In Winning Time

It’s hilarious because of the way that his character is portrayed, he is everybody’s favorite character. He hates the portrayal of himself, even though he’s most positively looked at after the series is over. A bit ironic. I would also give a plug to, not his agent, but Jason Clarke needs to be in more stuff.

Just the way that he portrayed Jerry West, he’s going to win the Emmy for a limited series as best supporting actor. I can guarantee it and he needs to be in more stuff. And while the basketball in Winning Time itself does make the plot move forward. I appreciate the show for being much more like this show and going from a top-down GM-based team-building perspective, really.

Rising through the weeds on how the Showtime Lakers were built. People I’d never even heard of before were integral to how this franchise and this dynasty grew. People like Jack McKinney, especially Paul Westhead storming Norman Nixon, and Spencer Haywood all get their moments from phenomenal acting performances.

Very integral plot points as well. Not since the series Chernobyl, have I seen a complete acting performance from every single actor in the series, and God bless that it does make Winning Time shine. The best news that I’ve heard this year is the announcement that this mini-series is not going to be that anymore.

At Least One More Season to Go

And we’ll actually have a follow-up. This series has been renewed for a second season and I can’t wait for it. Winning Time was a compelling drama with superb camera work, grade A acting, and a directorial focus that you rarely see with such precision in the streaming age. 

On a technical level, the series uses cuts and pans that look like they came straight out of the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.

Color distortions, there are grainy shots, and a lot of vibrant set design put you in a time and place that you don’t want to leave. I sit here praising HBO for lighting the series.

I salute Adam McKay the director of the first episode, who was integral in bringing the series to light John C. Riley, and Jason Clarke.

As I mentioned, the entire cast and every single person that brought the show to life, I couldn’t be more grateful. We’re having such a profoundly made piece of sports television available to us, in the same way as The Last Dance captured our hearts and minds.

With one of the best sports documentaries, we’d ever seen Winning Time, in 10 episodes has already established itself as the greatest sports drama series ever.

And there’s still at least one more season to go, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Written by Amy Price

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