The Lakers are going to a training camp in Palm Springs; Buss is struggling financially; the new team coaches implement a groundbreaking idea.
QUINCY ISAIAH- FINALLY we get to see Earvin Johnson being Magic Johnson. No, he’s not the fully formed technically brilliant hoops wizard that he ultimately became, but we see the seeds of brilliance being planted. We FINALLY get to see him adapt to his surroundings on the court, and basically take the starting position from Norm Nixon. (without it being made official) We get to see him use the charisma (that he’s used on so many groupies in this show up until this point) in the locker room.
In this episode, Magic Johnson owns every room that he’s in. He relates to people on a different level than the average athlete. And even though people can be difficult, (like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) even they at the end of the day get won over by his charm. Isaiah’s performance is absolutely outstanding. This isn’t the Magic Johnson that bullies an amateur player on a playground, nor is this the Magic Johnson that GETS bullied by Norm Nixon as he is still trying to navigate through the culture clash going from Michigan to SoCal. FINALLY we see the general that he was on the court. Communicating with people simply with approving and disapproving glances, taking blows from veterans and getting up and smiling in their faces, and creating things on the court that people simply haven’t seen before. Like the character he plays, Isaiah is now finding his rhythm in the show. FINALLY.
THE FILM STUDY SCENE- Somehow, this show has managed to take something as technically complicated as the Showtime offense of the 1980’s, and break it down SO simplistically that even somebody who doesn’t know basketball could understand why it was so innovative, and why it was so hard to pull off given the constructs of the game going from the 70’s into the 80’s. You see seasoned veterans like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West confounded at the audacity of it, and that completely makes sense. Ultimately, this is the singular scene that shakes the foundation of every character we’ve met in this story so far, and the rest of the episode from this point is the aftershock of the implementation of that offense.
IMAGE OVER EVERYTHING- Are the Los Angeles Lakers primarily known for their achievements on the court? Yes. Of course. But that’s only primarily. Even when the teams have been bad, (like they have been for the past decade outside of the pandemic year) the mystique has pretty much remained the same. The nightclub feel of the Forum in Inglewood, along with the celebrities on the sideline, and the “club dancers, NOT cheerleaders” feel of the Laker Girls, are very much a part of the mystique as much as the basketball ever was.
The construction of that mystique is very evident in this episode. I’m not necessarily sure if the image of the team was constructed in contrast to the lifestyle of Dr Jerry Buss… But it makes sense regardless of how true it is. This may be yet another example of the of the “modified for dramatic purposes” aspect of things. But it is fun to see the pieces of the puzzle being put together.
LINE OF THE WEEK
“What seems and sounds like chaos is actually the symphony of mother nature. Everything unpredictable has underlying patterns, and when those patterns become reflex… individuals become an unstoppable force”
-Jack McKinney in the mini montage explaining HIS vision of the Lakers offense.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
Nothing. This is an excellent episode from top to bottom.
Typically this would be my “where the f*** is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar” section of the review. But they FINALLY found a reasonable way of showing him here. Therefore, I cannot complain about a single thing.
Here we are, one week from what was the worst episode of this TV show to date. Only for it to be followed by what is UNQUESTIONABLY the best episode. Why? Because we FINALLY got some basketball action. We FINALLY get a full idea how tumultuous it was for all of the coaches, all of the ownership, and all of the players could gel into a cohesive unit.
Ultimately, this is exactly what I wanted from this show. Some insight into how the team itself began to gel, and showing just how difficult it is to create a memorable, and winning culture in sports. So many things have to happen at exactly the right time and exactly the right way. Rich people have to largely fight their ego and pride for the sake of others, there has to be some sort of a…peaceful blend of toxic masculinity at most, and it’s also VERY expensive.
It was refreshing for this episode to FINALLY stop talking about the lifestyle of Los Angeles, and start talking about the basketball side of things. I can’t wait for next week’s episode.
WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY is playing on HBO MAX