Winning Time

HBO’s Winning Time is the story of the Los Angeles Lakers 1979 season.

Apparently the Lakers hate it, but I dig it. The Lakers don’t like it because they aren’t making any money from it, they have no control over how the story is told, and it reminds people how good they were in past incarnations.

Also, Magic doesn’t like it because he has a documentary coming out that covers a lot of the same territory. And being famously surly, Kareem doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like much of anything.

I await each episode because I was living in SoCal at the time and a huge Laker fan. Apart from apparently exaggerating Jerry West’s anger management issues, the casting is outstanding.

Also, the attention to period detail is Mad Men-like, meaning off-the-charts.

At the end of a recent episode the Lakers have a day off. Laker coach Jack McKinney‘s wife informs him she’s taking the car and he should go play tennis with Paul Westhead, his ace assistant. After she leaves, the workaholic coach begins scribbling in his notebook, then suddenly heads to the garage of his suburban home to grab his racquet and shiny red Schwinn bicycle.

The next 90 seconds are shot mostly via drone. The successful but simple workaholic, the home, the street, the neighborhood, the sunlight, the Beach Boy music, the Schwinn all felt bizarrely familiar. I wasn’t watching someone else’s life as much as reliving my own. My dad played tennis most weekends in the 1970s in SoCal. He didn’t ride his Schwinn, but there was one in the garage. Long story short, the producers magnificently nailed the ethos of time and place.

One other less obvious thing to note. The fact that the Laker coach’s family only had one car speaks volumes about the NBA’s fledging status in 1979.

Highly recommended. As long as you’re at least 17 years old and not too prudish.

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