The cancellation of “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” provoked a wide range of responses from fans, ranging from displeasure at the anticlimactic ending to calls for Showtime to revive the series with a more appropriate title. But to Magic Johnson, who was played by Quincy Isaiah in the unauthorized series, the show’s untimely end was a vindication of his public criticisms.
The NBA legend had led a chorus of former Los Angeles Lakers, including his former teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and coach Jerry West, in calling out what they saw as the show’s factual inaccuracies. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson expressed some schadenfreude about the show’s cancellation and reiterated his belief that the story of the 1980s Lakers could not be told without the involvement of the team.
“Well, I never watched it because nobody in this world can tell the Lakers story (like it needed to be told). The Showtime story? Nobody! Dr. Buss was way ahead of his time as an owner. Our team? Unbelievable! The Laker girls with Paula Abdul? Unbelievable! Nobody can tell that story,” Johnson said. “So, none of us watched it because it was fictional. You just can’t tell that story. But, hey, that’s on them.”
Johnson’s comments echo remarks he made prior to the show’s premiere in 2022, when he said that he had no intention of watching the series because he did not believe that it would be an accurate representation of what happened.
“You can’t duplicate Showtime,” Johnson said in 2022. “I’m not gonna watch. Now, if the Lakers or myself or some Lakers have something to do with it, then I would, but it’s just, you can’t copy that, it’s just too much.”
HBO defended “Winning Time” throughout its run, saying that while the series was never intended to be viewed as a documentary, the dramatic license taken by creators Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht was done in good faith.
“The series and its depictions are based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing,” the network said in a 2022 statement. “HBO stands resolutely behind our talented creators and cast who have brought a dramatization of this epic chapter in basketball history to the screen.”