Winning Time depicts the Lakers’ progress throughout the 1979-1980 NBA season, which was primarily on trying to win a championship. New owner Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) and youngster Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) set out to be the final team remaining from the beginning. The season 1 finale focused heavily on the final few games of the Lakers’ showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers after Winning Time episode 9 showed the club clinching a position in the NBA Finals.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lands awkwardly following a shot in the second half of game five of the NBA finals, severely spraining his ankle. As the Lakers’ shell-shocked team soon surrenders their lead to the Sixers, Abdul-Jabbar defies the team doctor’s recommendation and returns in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to victory and bring the NBA title within one win. But when he asks Magic to assist him in walking off the court, it’s evident that the Lakers’ captain won’t be able to play in game six, much less fly across the country to Philadelphia.
GREATEST FINALS PERFORMANCE EVER?
When Rookie Magic Johnson played center in place of injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #WinningTime
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 9, 2022
In the Winning Time finale, The next day, in Jerry Buss’ office, Claire Rothman gives Buss positive financial news instead of bad. They can’t afford to pay Great Western right soon, says Buss. No contracts can be signed until Buss replaces his late mother, the team’s treasurer. So he invites his adored daughter and loyal (unpaid) employee Jeanie into his office. At the funeral of his grandmother, he tells Jeanie he realized he wanted to make the Lakers a family company. Jeanie is disappointed when her father assigns her to show her two brothers about the Forum and report back on whose son’s interest is sparked the most.
With Kareem out for game six, Spencer Haywood may be able to return. This is what he tells his two drug addict pals, one of which is the oddball who loaned Haywood the gun in the prior episode. He informs them the hit on the Lakers is off while he calls his agent, hoping for good news. But he cuts them off and says the hit is back on. Magic hallucinates Larry Bird in his living room, where the two trade barbs about Bird winning Rookie of the Year.
Magic is met at LAX by Kareem’s girlfriend Cheryl Pistono, who says the big man wants to talk privately before the team leaves for Philly. Magic is the first to learn of Kareem’s injury and subsequent series exit. Not only did the rookie’s smile brighten Kareem’s day, but he also told him that he had been going through the motions and cashing checks for as long as his body could handle it. Magic promises his teammates on the aircraft that everything will be OK because he would start at center in game six. although ex-coach Jack McKinney apologized to Westhead in the form of handwritten game notes earlier in the episode. And these notes, which account for an injury to Abdul-Jabbar, fit up perfectly with the new strategy.
When the Lakers take an early lead, O’Brien’s absence becomes an issue for deputy commissioner David Stern, who makes a last-minute call to get O’Brien on a helicopter from New York to Philadelphia to prevent the league from embarrassing of its leader from missing the championship trophy presentation. By halftime, the Sixers have tied the game, and Magic asks a team employee for the Rookie of the Year vote count. Prior to reaching Magic, Riley intercepts and destroys the package.
Winning Time limps to its completion as Kareem watches the second half from home as if playing on Kareem’s weak ankle. The fact of game six is that the Lakers easily dominated the second half and won by 16 points. So, to add some much-needed drama, Magic Johnson runs out of gas until Riley informs him that Larry Bird has won the Rookie of the Year voting by a whopping 60 first-place votes to Magic’s three. Magic gets a second wind and leads the Lakers to victory in a rapid montage that allows Commissioner O’Brien to fly into Philadelphia.
— Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (@winningtimehbo) May 9, 2022
Back at his residence, Kareem, who is still haunted by his choice to fire Spencer Haywood, is cheered up by Cheryl, who informs him that he will be accepting his well-deserved NBA Finals MVP Award by a phone call on live television. However, when Magic is approached in the corridor by David Stern, the future NBA Commissioner with enormous aspirations for the league, he quietly proposes to the youngster that he takes the trophy for his heroic performance in game six. After watching Magic receive the trophy he deserved, Kareem heads over to Spencer Haywood’s house.