The final buzzer has sounded on Season 2 of HBO’s Winning Time. And like any rapacious basketball fans, we’re already hungry for a new season. But the final episode of Winning Time Season 2 may be more than a season finale.
At the end of Season 2, everyone has grown up. Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) went from wallowing in the despair of another failed marriage (along with Honey (Ari Graynor) making him come to terms with his manipulative fraudulence), to a man with enough resolve in who he is that he can still muster a smirk after his team loses a crushing Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Newly engaged Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) is starting to come to terms with settling down. Buss’s precocious princess, Jeanie Buss (Hadley Robinson), already has her eyes set on one day owning the team. The Lakers go through a crushing loss to the Celtics that sends them into dejected silence, rather than finger-pointing enmity.
This growth typically marks a turning point in a show’s trajectory. With the shock value of salaciousness from Season 1 behind them and the maturity of Season 2 as a foundation, Winning Time now seems to have the chance to delve deeper into the humans behind the Showtime Lakers spectacle.
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Unfortunately, its growth is now its ceiling.
Will There Be Another Season Of Winning Time?
After 17 stellar iconoclastic looks into the Showtime Lakers era of the NBA, HBO decided to break up its basketball time machine and forego a Season 3. The Lakers falling to the Boston Celtics in the 1984 NBA Finals will be the last we see from the Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht-created show. The writing began appearing on the wall when Jeff Pearlman, the author of the Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s book the series is based on, began pleading on social media for more people to watch the second season before the season’s third episode aired. He alluded to the show not having the ratings a TV goliath like HBO would find adequate for more seasons, but also described the writer’s strike as having a “crippling” effect on the show’s growth.
The Season 2 finale also gave hints of the uncertainty around a Season 3. Unlike in the Season 1 finale, where Jerry Buss said the Lakers would do it all again after winning the 1980 NBA Finals, Season 2 ended with no setup for future storylines. Season 2 finale director Salli Richardson-Whitfield told Men’s Health 10 days before the finale, “We hope there’s another chapter,” when asked why the Season 2 finale didn’t set up a third season. “We would like to come back and see the Lakers beat the Celtics. It’s hard to end on this note,” she told Men’s Health. “We got to come back and be triumphant and beat the Celtics.”
Winning Time‘s cancellation means so many great stories won’t be explored. Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement, the Lakers finally defeating the Celtics in the 1985 Finals, and the paradigm-shifting entry of Michael Jordan into the NBA are just a few of the storylines we won’t see dramatized. Adrien Brody, Winning Time‘s Pat Riley, was also looking forward to an entire season of the fully formed Showtime Lakers with Riley running the show. “He’s much more fully formed, but he’s not fully there. And I think neither is Magic, for that matter,” Brody told Men’s Health. “To see them really take charge and be those iconic people in sports history would be pretty fun to portray.”
Likely to the delight of the real Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a few other Lakers who disapproved of the reimagining of their lives, Winning Time has run out of time.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.