The miniseries begins in 1991 during the Michael Jordan era and after the end of the golden era when Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) finds out and eventually reveals that he has AIDS.
The heyday of basketball in ‘Winning Time’
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
In the early 2000s, Adam McKay was famous for directing cult classic comedies including Anchorman starring his frequent collaborator Will Ferrell; the two would later create the website Funny or Die. More recently, McKay has focused on subject matters that I like including business and economics and their impacts on the world. McKay earned an Academy Award for his screenwriting on The Big Short which explained how the 2008 financial crisis happened; he also has been hard at work producing and directing the Emmy-winning show Succession which tackled the mass media landscape and billionaires influencing it. Additionally, he talked about ignorance in Don’t Look Up.
The realistic satire in his works shows an almost accurate depiction of how the world works. Now, he has set his unique style on the world of sports in the new miniseries Winning Time. It explores a golden era in basketball and how it produced a variety of basketball legends including Magic Johnson.
The miniseries begins in 1991 during the Michael Jordan era and after the end of the golden era when Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) finds out and eventually reveals that he has AIDS. We then go back to the beginning in 1979 where we meet Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) as he explains a different and wonderful time in the NBA and as he gears up to buy the Los Angeles Lakers. He, alongside Lakers co-owner and former player Jerry West (Jason Clarke), work to try to win the first pick in the NBA Draft that year.
With every team wanting him and his high expectations, Johnson had to choose between being drafted into the NBA or staying in college for one more year. When Johnson and his father toured potential teams, they went to Los Angeles and met its star players of the time including Norm Nixon (played by his son DeVaughn Nixon) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (played by Solomon Hughes). I first learned about Abdul-Jabbar when I saw Airplane! in which he played a pilot that a passenger recognized. Johnson was not used to Los Angeles life compared to his life back home in Michigan and when he met Nixon for the first time at a party, he questions if he is prepared to be a star basketball player.
Eventually, he would be drafted by the team and an exciting era would begin. The moment after the opening titles end in the first episode, it suddenly turns into a reality show and like The Big Short, characters talk to the audience to explain things or say what is on their minds. At times, McKay would change cameras going back and forth between a film camera and a TV camera to get a closer look at what is going on and sometimes would show a shot for a few seconds to highlight a reaction or a flashback.
The reality show look also shows when he cuts to shots of items or signs to show where the scene is happening. So far, the miniseries revealed a few fun facts about the NBA including Jerry West being the model for the silhouette in the league’s logo.
Winning Time airs Sunday at 9:00 PM on HBO and streaming on HBO Max and Crave.