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Photo: Warrick Page/HBO

Television

‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ episode 5 review: The complexity of Kareem

Winning Time shows how the captain finally bought in on the team.

Up to this point on Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, the team’s captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been pushed to the periphery as we become familiar with more personable characters such as Dr. Jerry Buss and Magic Johnson. In “Pieces of a Man,” we step into the life of the multi-winning MVP.

The series paints a portrait of a layered and complex individual beginning with his youth. The flashbacks show a man shaped by his faith who wants to be a beacon of light for people to look up to. He is very active socially fighting for the same things movements such as Black Lives Matter are after all these years later. Kareem is vilified throughout his career due to his beliefs and the constant disrespect shapes his frosty demeanor. The deaths of black men, both high profile and local, around him takes its toll leading to disillusionment.

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Compared to his teammates on Winning Time, Kareem is on a different level with big vision. Watch as he juggles his investments and business portfolios. This along with the talent gap accentuates the feeling of isolationism with the other Lakers. Imagine the surprise by everyone when new addition, Spencer Haywood, receives a warm welcome from their team captain. In Haywood, Kareem finds a kindred soul who fought against the system and someone he is comfortable with. For the audience, Haywood provides fun comic relief as people try to determine if the rumors about his circumcision are true.

There are some great soapy drama elements with the Lakers behind the scenes. McKinney manipulating Magic to be firmer with the team captain is a work of coaching genius. It’s a growing conflict that highlights the players’ differences. The surly old head who mails it in versus the ambitious new kid on the block. It even comes down to some blows but the rookie’s perseverance along with Kareem’s renewed faith help them see eye to eye resulting in the team taking the league by storm.

winning time 5.2
Photo: Warrick Page/HBO

There’s tension off the court on Winning Time as well as the stress of making a good first impression during the home opener is overwhelming Dr. Buss. He becomes a micromanager and is set off by even the little things. It doesn’t help that he starts listening to the radio gasbags and the owner begins to ponder if the talking heads are right. That the team is his shiny new toy and that he’ll lose interest in them eventually and pursue something else. Digging deeper, it reflects whether Dr. Buss can ever be fulfilled.

The episode also includes the origin story of the iconic Laker Girls and one of their more famous alumni, Paula Abdul. It’s interesting that out of all off Dr. Buss’ kids, we only see Jeanie. She knows exactly what her father likes and her spearheading the dance team project demonstrates the kind of vision she has in the business. Although, the show continues to push how uncomfortable Jeanie is while watching her dad ogle these young dancers in skimpy outfits. It doesn’t allow her to really enjoy her success completely.

As we hit the midway point of Winning Time, the episode ends with a tragic accident. Those familiar with this Lakers season know it was going to happen and it changes the mood after all the success the team experiences. Like any good sports story, it adds another crisis and sets the stage for the triumphant rise from hardship. The build up and suspense is well done with a fake out prior to the conclusion.

“Pieces of a Man” is an intriguing dive into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that highlights his complexities and how his personality and beliefs affected him on and off the court. The tragic ending sets the stage for the eventual overcoming adversity in all good sport stories.

New episodes of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty air Sunday nights on HBO.

winning time 5.1
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty E 5 review: 'Pieces of a Man'
“Pieces of a Man” is an intriguing dive into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that highlights his complexities and how his personality and beliefs affected him on and off the court. The tragic ending sets the stage for the eventual overcoming adversity in all good sport stories.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Solomon Hughes performance as Kareem Abdul-Jabarr.
The tragic ending setting up more drama for the team.
Dr. Jerry Buss is getting a little insufferable.
8
Good

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