HBO’s Lakers Series “One of the Most Heavily Researched Sports Shows,” Says Writer Max Borenstein

HBO’s untitled series about the Los Angeles Lakers will leave no stone unturned. Based on Jeff Pearlman‘s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, the all-star-led show focuses on the reigning champs in the ’80s. With Pat Riley coaching Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, the legendary team won five championships. Although the series is described as a drama, executive producer and writer Max Borenstein told us to expect a lot of laughs from the intensely researched show.

Borenstein is known for the Monsterverse movies, but it was his dramatic scripts that caught studios’ eyes in the early days of his career. So despite all the monster mayhem he’s written, the Lakers project is in his wheelhouse. “Right now, I’m making a show for HBO,” he said. “It is dramatic, but it’s also very fun, funny, and irreverent.”

Adam McKay (The Big Short) is producing the series and directing the pilot. McKay is a bit of a basketball historian. He even co-hosts a podcast, Death at the Wing, about sports and politics. Considering everyone involved, expect the Lakers show to represent an “extraordinary” amount of research. Borenstein told us:

“It will be one of the most heavily researched sports shows or movies. I mean, there haven’t been that many sports shows, but it’d be as heavily researched if were doing a story about Watergate or World War II. It’s extraordinarily researched. We’re not presuming to do a documentary.”

It’s Not All Serious Business

Borenstein sees it as a fun show, too. “It’s light-hearted material, in a sense, because it’s basketball,” he said, adding:

“It’s real people, and we’re treating it respectfully, but we’re having fun as Adam does in his films with the line between reality and a heightened version. We’re pretty open about it. It’s based on and inspired by the true story, but still having fun. The things that are the craziest are the truest, that’s the important thing. We were taking liberties, obviously, with what people were saying behind closed doors. In terms of the big stuff that happens, we have receipts. It’s going to be fun stuff.”

The show features a stacked cast of actors and characters. Most recently, Max E. Williams was cast as Jack Nicholson, Carina Conti as Paula Abdul, and Mike Epps as Richard Pryor, a role he’s been circling for years. They joined an already impressive ensemble. Here’s a not-so-quick rundown of who’s playing who: Adrien Brody plays Pat Riley, John C. Reilly plays team owner Jerry Buss, Jason Clarke plays general manager Jerry West, Jason Segal plays assistant coach Paul Westhead, Sally Field plays Jessie Buss, Quincy Isaiah plays Magic Johnson, Solomon Hughes plays Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gaby Hoffmann plays Claire Rothman, and Bo Burnham plays Larry Bird.

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