Release Date, Potential Storylines For Winning Time Season 2 On HBO

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HBO’s Winning Time television show was a controversial look at the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty of the 1980s.

Characters were completely unlikable; some would say unrecognizable. Magic Johnson is immature. Norm Nixon is insane. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is aloof to the nth degree. In real life, Jerry West wanted to sue everyone because of the way he’s portrayed as one giant horse’s behind.

There were hard-to-watch moments. The Jerry Buss (played brilliantly by John C. Reilly) scene with the nurse in the car made my skin crawl. Skeevy to the max.

But the show was something else too. Completely addictive.

Call it the first pro basketball historical fiction soap opera, like Melrose Place but with basketball, the show was a hit for HBO.

Jeff Pearlman, whose book the show is “loosely” based on (quotes intentional) tweeted last week that casting was underway for season 2, which would start filming this month.

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When Will Winning Time Season 2 debut?

HBO has not said when it would air, but the details posted by Pearlman said filming would wrap up in mid-January in Los Angeles. This could mean a Season 2 debut to roughly coincide with the NBA playoffs in 2023.

The casting call also asked for actors to play former Laker stars Kurt Rambis, Mitch Kupchak, Byron Scott, James Worthy and…former Celtic center Robert Parish?

The good (or maybe the bad) news is there are some great storylines Winning Time Season 2 can explore. Here’s what we’d like to see the show spin.

Jack is Back

The story of former Lakers coach Jack McKinney is detailed in the first season. McKinney takes over for Jerry West as coach and plants the seeds of the franchise’s Showtime style with his up-tempo game.

Then Splat.

McKinney is involved in a bloody solo bike riding accident (another hard-to-watch scene) and forced to step away from the Lakers – or be forced to step away – depending on what you believe. Paul Westhead, one of the characters who is actually likable, if timid, becomes the head coach with Pat Riley as his assistant. The Lakers win the NBA title in 1980 over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Yet, McKinney does resurface in 1981 with the Indiana Pacers as their head coach. In the Winning Time formula, that must mean at least one game, or one scene between the two adversaries.

Magic’s Power Play

Spoiler Alert – the Lakers don’t win the 1981 NBA title, losing to the Houston Rockets in a short first round series 2-1.

The Rockets had Calvin Murphy and Moses Malone, so it’s not like they lost to a bunch of chumps. Expect the show to really drag on Malone, who’s reputation was never good to begin with.

But the next year, Magic and Westhead have a public falling out. Westhead gets fired. Magic gets booed. Pat Riley becomes the Lakers head coach. The Lakers win the NBA title.

Winning Time will probably mix some kind of Westhead/Magic love triangle if the show stays true to form.

The New Rival

Larry Bird is a man of few words in Winning Time, a caricature hick from French Lick, drinking Budweiser in between tobacco spits. Bird wins his first NBA title in 1981 against the Rockets.

But the character I want to see emerge next is Isiah Thomas. The Chicago-born Thomas joins the NBA in 1982, and he and Magic have a complicated relationship, kissing at the NBA All-Star Game one year and then freezing each other out after that. Isiah becoming a star in Detroit and stealing Magic’s thunder in his home state is a good story.

Norm Nixon Gets Nixed

Here’s one that is somewhat true, at least in the book. Lakers star Norm Nixon begins to act erratically and Lakers General Manager Jerry West hires a private investigator to follow Nixon around and document any possible drug use.

This is right up the show’s alley. Nixon is eventually traded in real-life to the Clippers in 1983.

Kareem’s House Fire

The truth is the Lakers were in Boston playing the Celtics when an electrical fire started in Abdul-Jabbar’s home burning it to the ground in 1983.

Abdul-Jabbar lost several priceless antiques and his collection of jazz records. Now, in the show’s style, they’ll probably speculate that the house was burned down by one of Abdul-Jabbar’s former girlfriends or by Spencer Haywood, seeking revenge on Abdul-Jabbar for kicking him off the 1980 team (didn’t really happen) which was one of the climaxes of Season One.


The first season of Winning Time centered around the Lakers 1980 season. Buss buying the team, playing fast and loose with women…and money, his daughter Jeanie’s role with the Lakers, drafting Magic, Jerry West being a total wacko and then the Lakers winning it all anyway.

1984 deserves its own season altogether, because after three seasons: 1981-1983, we finally get the real show: Lakers vs. Celtics in the NBA Finals. Perhaps that’s Season 3 of Winning Time.