Winning Time: A must for series and sports fans

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Winning time: A club plays its way to the top of the world

HBO / Sky Germany

Meteoric Rise: Thanks to the events of “Winning Time,” the Los Angeles Lakers became the number one basketball team in the United States.

1979: Real estate entrepreneur Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) is in the midst of his midlife crisis. He secretly lives on credit and squanders the money that his ex-wife is actually entitled to on expensive sports cars, cosmetics and charming young women. In a rush of megalomania, he decides to pursue his great passion for ball sports, because as Buss likes to say: “There are two things that justify my belief in God: sex and basketball!” So he buys the ailing Los Angeles Lakers sports club for $68 million, which he doesn’t really have.

Although no one believes in him, he manages the insane rise. The team becomes the top team and basketball franchise – The Lakers are now valued at five and a half billion dollars. Back in the early ’80s, however, Buss and his players had to grapple with their fragile male egos fighting: manager Jerry West (Jason Clarke) suffers from tantrums and alcoholism, aspiring coaches like Paul Westhead (Jason Segel) and Pat Riley (Adrien Brody) are at risk of succumbing to the pressure to succeed and get bogged down in arguments with Buss. Young elite athlete Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) celebrates his sporting triumphs at Edelpuffs in Las Vegas (and later catches the HIV virus), and veteran basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes) joins the Lakers , but goes on Racism within the industry increasingly broken.

Sky shows the dark side of sport in “Winning Time”.

HBO / Sky Germany

“Winning Time” doesn’t only show basketball, instead it’s about the complex political background of the sport.

A normal athlete promotion drama à la “Rocky” isn’t “Winning Time” by any means: the series negotiates the zeitgeist of the era and goes into detail about the downside of professional sport. In this series everyone actually consumes coke at some point. Series creator Adam McKay also staged everything in a faded, strong style grainy shots that deliberately linked to the VHS aesthetics are. Anyone who knows McKay and his films (including “The Big Short” and “Don’t Look Up”) will quickly recognize his style: Overlaid graphics present crazy and real factsin between each character chats into the camera and addresses the amazed viewer.

Basketball is considered the “sport of African Americans” in the USA, since the majority of top athletes are black players – and even then were black players. McKay dares in “Winning Time”, the problematic dynamics behind the scenes to show: Almost all clubs are owned by rich white men who present their Black Stars as exhibits. Jerry Buss shaped basketball like no other and is considered a visionary because he was the first to recognize and fully exploit the franchise opportunities. But when he presents his “discovery” Magic Johnson to investors in the series, one cannot help but Comparisons to slavery to draw, in which also white “Owner” (in German: “owner”) could freely dispose of their black subjects. The comparisons are extensively placed in the middle ground by the series – and are unfortunately still applicable today.

It wasn’t until 2014 that there was a major racism scandal involving billionaire Donald Sterling, who “owned” the NBA team LA Clippers at the time. He was forced to sell his franchise for $2 billion because of his racist remarks. A man treats his employees racist and leaves with two billion? No question: The Outrage at such power dynamics in basketball were a driving force behind Adam McKay and his writers in making “Winning Time” a reality.

Funny, witty: “Winning Time” is a win for Sky customers

HBO / Sky Germany

Brilliant: Even the acting performance of basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “The Incredible Journey in a Mad Plane” is picked up in the series.

But not everything is just serious and dramatic: On the other hand, it is a great pleasure to watch “Winning Time”. The sports scenes are dynamic and gripping staged, the characters are multi-layered and drawn in three dimensions – even if some of the more negatively portrayed real people, such as Jerry West, accuse the series of distorting the facts. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will be amused by the hyper-correct depiction of the fashionable customs of the time: fat sideburns, distinctive mustaches and garishly colored clothes as far as the eye can see.

And the grandiose cast ensures in the ten episodes of 57 minutes each also for enthusiasm, with Reilly and Isaiah in particular recommending themselves for upcoming award ceremonies. Even the multiple Oscar winner Jack Nicholson is there – if not himself, but his young self, played by Max E. Williams. Nicholson is a Lakers fan, hasn’t missed a game of his favorite team for over 40 years – and was given the prestigious spotlight as a VIP guest by Buss.

There is no question that there is no comparable series this year, which is as innovative and at the same time as witty as it is personable. Even if it’s only May, you can already heave “Winning Time” into the series Olympus with peace of mind. A second season has already been ordered – good this way.

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