This review contains SPOILERS for Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, for last week’s review click here.
Religion is something many people are born into. When you’re a child you generally follow whatever religious values your family follows. As you grow older, you learn new things, and become interested in them. Born, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. this episode focuses on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is timely considering Ramadan started this weekend. The latest episode of Winning Time is all about compromising and doing your part to further your team.
Winning Time starts off with a young Kareem (Solomon Hughes) converting to Islam in Harlem. The story we follow shows his admiration for social justice after a young black child was murdered by a police officer. His father was a police officer, and he didn’t take kindly to his son converting religions. Kareem didn’t really want to play basketball as it seems because he thought of it as the white man’s entertainment. He wanted to change the world and be an activist in the likes of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
This leads to him clashing with teammate Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah), who wants him to be a part of the team. He also clashed with head coach Jack McKinney (Tracy Letts). There was one person with who Kareem shook hands and broke bread with though, his ex-Milwaukee teammate Spencer Haywood (Wood Harris). Haywood fought for athletes like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Dwight Howard to be able to play in the pros straight out of high school. As the episode goes on, Johnson and Kareem have a physical altercation. This leads to Kareem going to a Mosque and finding himself again.
Jerry Buss is clashing with his employees and people close to him because he wants The Forum to be a perfect opening night. He clashes with Claire Rothman (Gabby Hoffman) and Frank Mariani (Stephen Adley Guirgis) throughout the episode. Frank is upset he put the team in JoAnn Mueller’s (Kate Arrington) name, Buss’ wife. His problem with Claire is that she isn’t getting stuff done fast enough, and they can’t find dancers for the team. Buss is on a time crunch and everything is going to hell. Of course, Jeanie Buss (Hadley Robinson) recruits Paula Abdul (Carina Conti) and the rest is history.
Magic and Kareem mesh their playing styles with McKinney’s offense, creating the motion offense; a whole new spectacle. Buss’ dream of a stadium comes true and his Lakers girl led by Abdul steals the show. Everything goes perfectly fine, until it doesn’t. After showing us Jellybean Bryant and his son Kobe during the Lakers V. (San Diego) Clippers game, and all the glory that came during the Lakers opening night against the Bulls. The episode ends with Coach Jack McKinney getting into a gruesome bike accident that led to him getting a concussion and being in a coma for three days.
This was the episode that Winning Time needed. It’s proving to be one of the better sports shows we’ve seen in a long time. HBO isn’t new to this though, and they continue to prove so. The first few episodes of Winning Time had their moments, but this one absolutely shined from start to finish. There was a certain type of energy and effort given by Tanya Hamilton for this episode. Rodney Barnes pieced together a very good episode about all of the different elements surrounding opening day that year.
This episode further proves Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an interesting character. He was always into social justice, and he always wanted to be an activist. No matter who he had relations with, he was always very vocal about protecting black people. He was a great basketball player and a great leader. But this episode shows how Magic Johnson helped reignite a fire inside of him. The relevancy of this episode is potent, and the fact that it was released in time with one of the biggest Muslim holidays is amazing.
I look forward to more of the basketball aspect. The fourth wall stuff isn’t as rampant which has worked out immensely. It’s very much working in favor of the creators and for the audience. Seeing how one of the most potent offenses to ever exist in the NBA came to be has been a lot of fun. Barnes leaving the cliffhanger like that was excellent because for people that don’t know what happened or don’t follow basketball it was a way to draw them in. A great episode for fans of the game and people that enjoy great television. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Rating – 9/10
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty premiers Sundays at 9pm/8c