There are some teams in pro sports history where the players and people around them elevate the squad above the normal levels of popularity and become bigger than the game itself.
Certain teams become mainstream icons to the point where the players are rock stars just as much as they are athletes.
Sure, we have seen individual players rise to such legendary mainstream levels, such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, both the NBA MVP award recipients, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter. But it’s more unique to see certain teams rise to such levels of superstardom as a collective.
Now, maybe the most legendary version of any team in Los Angeles sports history is being celebrated and exposed at the same time in a new HBO series.
“Winning Time” on HBO Spotlights The 1980s Lakers
The 1980s Lakers: One Of the All-Time Iconic Teams
How do you know if a team is bigger than the sport itself? Veteran and highly respected sportswriter Jeff Pearlman will write a book about it. He has penned three definitive retrospectives on what were arguably the three most memorable pro sports teams of the 20th century: The 1990s Dallas Cowboys (“Boys Will Be Boys”), the 1986 New York Mets (“The Bad Guys Won”), and the 1980s Lakers.
Pearlman’s 2014 epic read, “Showtime: Magic, Kareem. Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s,” served as the basis for HBO’s new series on the team. “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” promises to be a full insider’s view of the most legendary NBA franchise during the league’s most important and pivotal years of the modern era. In this must-read comprehensive behind-the-scenes view of the series from the Hollywood Reporter, it is made clear that “Winning Time” was not approved by the Lakers or many of the people featured. Yet it is still an enduring testament of the team that took center stage in pro basketball in a decade of a major resurgence.
The 1983 76ers may have been the best single-season team of the decade, and the hated Boston Celtics certainly made a huge mark on the sport. But the Lakers were the biggest stars of the 1980s, when they became the most glamorous NBA team, on and off the court. Having read the book, I can tell you that they were deemed to be fast and dynamic when they were in and out of uniform. The entire franchise was under a spotlight that never dimmed.
Rising From Mediocrity With A Smile
In the 1970s, the NBA plodded through a gloomy existence, and the series will show how Jerry Buss, played by the versatile and marvelous John C. Reilly, took over the franchise and turned it around while playing a huge role in the rebirth of the NBA. Drafting Earvin “Magic” Johnson in 1979 was the key to revitalizing the Lakers and the league.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has clearly stated that Johnson reminded him how fun the game could be in their very first game together.
“What happened was I made the winning shot, and it was like he had just won a championship,” he told the Harvard Business Review. “He was going crazy, wrestling me down and hugging me and everything. When we got in the locker room, I said, ‘Look, we’ve got 81 more games to play.’ But from him, in that same moment, I learned that it’s OK to have some fun and enjoy things as you’re having the experience. You don’t enjoy the smaller successes that, of course, lead to bigger and better things.”
Those “bigger and better things” turned out to be five NBA Championships during the 1980s, and the series will show how The LA Forum became the place to be and be seen during and after games. The Lakers were the most entertaining team to watch during the decade because of their blend of superstars and unmatchable up-tempo style of play.
“Winning Time,” however, also will reveal how the team and those who surrounded it kept their up-tempo vibes flowing when the games were over. The Lakers were VIPs on the Forum floor, at The Forum Club, and wherever else they went nationally.
The 1980s Lakers: Larger Than Life
The players and the team brass were a blend of unique personalities that fueled unrivaled success, and it will be highly compelling to see how they are portrayed. Magic was an exuberant player and person who was one of the most universally liked people on the planet. Not even Celtics fans could easily hate him. Abdul-Jabbar was the serious superstar, and we will also get glimpses of how Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper were important parts of the team’s story. Nixon was a key Laker prior to Magic’s arrival yet was traded away in 1983, so his role in the evolution of the team’s run to glory should be an interesting and pivotal one.
Buss is a focal point from which the high-intensity atmosphere emanates, and Pat Riley, played by Adrien Brody, was a demanding head coach who drove the team hard for real results despite all the hoopla that surrounded it.
The 1980s were truly the “Golden Era” of the NBA when the league transformed from being a seemingly doomed afterthought to rising to prominence among other professional sports. The Lakers were a central figure in the league’s metamorphosis.
“Winning Time” will celebrate the 1980s Lakers, but it will also reveal the intensity that never seemed to let up when the game clock ran out.
Featured Image: ComingSoon.net