HBO’s Winning Time, a series depicting the rise of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, got a lot of heat from the actual Lakers. The series got it all wrong, they cried! That’s not how it went down! HBO tried to get around the fuss with a disclaimer at the beginning of every show: “This series is a dramatization of certain facts and events … some of the events and characters have been fictionalized, modified or composited for dramatic purposes.” Dramatization? Dramatic? Maybe the problem was HBO misidentifying what was going on in Winning Time — sure, there are dramatic moments, but the show is really a one-hour comedy about rolling the dice and taking incredible chances. Here are five scenes that prove Winning Time is one of the funniest shows in the league.
Sex and basketball
The trailer for the first season introduces us to Winning Time’s funniest character, Dr. Jerry Buss, played with hilarious braggadocio by John C. Reilly. It begins with a naked Buss breaking the fourth wall with a delighted confession: “There’s two things in this world that make me believe in God — sex and basketball.”
The young woman in his bed and in his arms isn’t all that interested. “I’m sleeping.”
A cheerful Buss isn’t discouraged. “Her loss!”
The NBA logo drops F-bombs
Lakers GM Jerry West is an unhappy dude. Despite being an all-time great player, his teams always lost to the Boston Celtics when it mattered most — Winning Time shows West hilariously destroying his Finals MVP trophy after a losing effort. “When he retired,” says Dr. Buss, “they made his silhouette the logo of the league.”
“You think that made me fucking happy?!” screams the animated logo, slamming a cartoon basketball off the screen.
That really was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane
In the comedy Airplane, Kareem played co-pilot Roger Murdock but that didn’t fool a kid visiting the cockpit, who immediately recognized the Lakers center. After trying to tell the kid he’s actually Murdock, Kareem finally comes clean. He grabs the kid by his shirt and gets in his face: “Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”
The real Kareem would never treat a kid like that, right? Er …
Jerry Buss’s mom takes charge
Sally Field took every chance she got to chew the scenery in Winning Time, that is, when she wasn’t sucking smoke through a long-stemmed cigarette holder. No one is a match for Dr. Buss except for mama, whose good-news plan for rescuing Jerry from financial trouble is giving the Lakers to his ex-wife. “I’m your mother, goddamnit. I’ll drag you on the lifeboat if I have to hogtie you to do it.”
Buss can’t believe it. “That was the good news?”
”Paul Revere should have slept in.”
Next to Reilly’s Dr. Buss, there’s no funnier Winning Time character than Jason Clarke’s misanthropic West. His ability to excel at basketball is only exceeded by his penchant for misery. And no place on Earth makes Jerry West unhappier than Boston. “Let the British burn this fuck-hole to the ground.”