The true stories behind HBO’s ‘Winning Time’: An episode-by-episode guide

Two men in a locker room in purple warmup suits
Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, left, and Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Winning Time.”
(Warrick Page / HBO)

HBO’s “Winning Time” tells the story of one of the greatest — and most influential — dynasties in basketball history: the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s.

Under the leadership of new owner Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly), star point guard Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah), veteran center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Solomon Hughes), Laker great Jerry West (Jason Clarke) and general manager of the Forum Claire Rothman (Gaby Hoffmann), the team reinvented the game itself with a style of fast, fluid, improvisational play known as run-and-gun — and birthed the glitzy, glamorous modern sports league with dance troupes, dramatic lighting, courtside celebrities and more.

Based on the book by Jeff Pearlman, “Winning Time,” co-created by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht and executive produced by Adam McKay, opens in 1979 with Buss’ purchase of the team from Jack Kent Cooke. But as it unfurls its dramatic tale, Season 1 of the series fudges some real-life details — and leaves out others.

Lucky for you, we’re leaving no stone unturned, exploring every aspect of the real-life Showtime: the symbiosis between Jerry Buss and Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ rivalry with the Boston Celtics, the coaching drama that put Pat Riley in the spotlight, Magic Johnson’s HIV diagnosis and much more. As you watch Season 1 of “Winning Time,” be sure to use our episode-by-episode guide.