TV & Movies

The Reason Magic Johnson Won’t Watch Winning Time

“You can’t duplicate Showtime.”

by Kadin Burnett
Magic Johnson resigns as the Lakers' president of basketball operations prior to a basketball game b...
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For several weeks now, HBO’s Sunday nights have been dedicated to Winning Time. The series follows the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers after the arrival of NBA legend Magic Johnson in the early ‘80s. However, despite the fact that the show chronicles his early life, Johnson apparently doesn’t have any interest in watching it.

"I won’t watch it because it’s hard to duplicate. You can’t duplicate Showtime,” Johnson told Entertainment Tonight in March, referring to the nickname given to the fast-paced, glitzy style of basketball he and the Lakers popularized in the ‘80s. “First, on the court, I mean, we just did our thing, it was up and down," he continued. "And then off the court — because unless you were a Laker, or you’re a Buss family [member] — because you can’t duplicate [longtime Lakers owner] Dr. Jerry Buss, and the Laker Girls and Paula Abdul and what that meant, I mean, it started on the court and it went all the way up."

Johnson also cited the Lakers’ lack of involvement in the series as a reason for why he wasn’t excited about the project. "Now, if the Lakers or myself or some Lakers have something to do with it, then I would [watch it], but it's just — you can't copy that, it's just too much,” he said. The Lakers echoed Johnson’s sentiments ahead of the show’s premiere. “We have no comment as we are not supporting nor involved with this project,” read a statement from the team to The Hollywood Reporter.

Warrick Page/HBO

Series creator Adam McKay (Succession, Don’t Look Up) seems to understand the trepidation surrounding the show from the people they’re depicting in it. “We’re coming at this with good intentions, but these guys don’t know that. They’re used to a certain degree of media that’s always going after them,” he told THR. “If I could talk to them, I’d say, ‘No, no, don’t worry, we’re going to paint the whole picture,’ but I get it, they don’t know me or [showrunner] Max Borenstein, and it’s their right to really not like it.”

Regardless, Johnson will soon get the chance to tell his own story. Though he told THR that he was “not looking forward” to Winning Time’s release in 2021, he added that he was participating in a four-part Apple TV+ docuseries, They Call Me Magic, premiering on April 22, as well as an untitled Hulu series that’s also set to document the Showtime-era Lakers.