Winning Time is winning no more.
HBO has canceled the series — full title Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — after two seasons. The news was a surprise, coming only moments after the network aired the second-season finale on Sunday night.
Co-creator Max Borenstein confirmed the news on X (formerly Twitter): “Not the ending that we had in mind. But nothing but gratitude and love.”
And director Salli Richardson posted on Instagram: “When you give it everything you’ve got, you can have no regrets. I hope you enjoy the last episode of @winningtimehbo I am sure I will do many more hours of TV and hopefully many features in my future, but I can say that at this moment in time I am most proud of the work we did on this masterful show.”
In an interview conducted with THR in late August, Richardson shared hopes for a third season, given how the finale plays out. “Obviously, you see how the season ends. So we would love to have, at the very least, even though we can do this for years, one more season so that we can get the Lakers winning against the Celtics. We don’t want to end with the Celtics winning. That’s awful,” she told THR. “I think people have realized this season that if you just watch the show instead of judging the show without seeing it, it’s a great show. It’s a well-written show with unbelievable performances. And you don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy it. I think that what Jeff was trying to say is that he just hopes that people find this little gem that’s out there, because it really is a great show and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The show, which debuted in March 2022, focuses on the Los Angeles Lakers EuroJournal team and their rise in the early 1980s. The first season spotlighted Jerry Buss’ first year as the team’s owner and Magic Johnson’s rookie year, 1979-80. The second season is set during the four-year period after that.
The show was created by Borenstein and Jim Hecht, based on the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s by Jeff Pearlman.
When the series premiered, it was met with criticism from Lakers as well as former Lakers coach and general manager Jerry West, who was portrayed in the series by Jason Clarke. At the time, West fired off a legal letter to Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO and series producer Adam McKay demanding a retraction, an apology and unspecified damages for the “false and defamatory portrayal.” West argued, via his attorney, that those who’d watched his portrayal in Winning Time now believe him to be an “out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic.”
In response, HBO told The Hollywood Reporter that the network “has a long history of producing compelling content drawn from actual facts and events that are fictionalized in part for dramatic purposes. Winning Time is not a documentary and has not been presented as such. However, the series and its depictions are based on extensive factual research and reliable sourcing, and HBO stands resolutely behind our talented creators and cast who have brought a dramatization of this epic chapter in basketball history to the screen.”
Former Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson also took issue with the series, with the former calling it a “boring” show with “crude stick-figure representations that resemble real people.”
For his part, Johnson said: “You can’t do a story about the Lakers without the Lakers. The real Lakers. You gotta have the guys.”