HBO orders TV pilot ‘Showtime,’ about 1980s Lakers era of Magic, Kareem and Pat Riley

The Lakers' Magic Johnson tries to move past Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during the 1991 NBA Finals as the Showtime era faded in Los Angeles.
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pat Riley are headed to HBO.

The premium cable network has ordered a pilot for a scripted drama based on Jeff Pearlman’s nonfiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.”

The 2014 book recounts in detail all of the drama and action that happened on and off the court. It chronicles “one of the most successful yet dysfunctional franchises in the history of sports,” Times columnist Chris Erskine wrote. “Pat Riley’s Showtime was pure jazz, based on the adolescent gusto of Magic Johnson, his often overindulgent teammates and the ringmaster instincts of [owner Jerry] Buss at the top of his game. Honestly, did the Ming Dynasty have this many moving parts? Certainly not this much cocaine.”

Announcing the project, HBO described it as “a fast-break series chronicling the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of sports’ most revered and dominant dynasties — a team that defined its era, both on and off the court.”

Adam McKay (HBO’s “Succession,” “Vice”) will direct the pilot, and serve as executive producer. Max Borenstein (“Godzilla,” “Kong: Skull Island”) will write the script, and Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown”) will co-write the story. Production is scheduled to start this summer.


“Jeff Pearlman’s book and Max Borenstein’s script of the story of the Showtime Lakers really knocked me over,” said McKay in a statement. “Sexism, racism, tragedy, redemption, no-look passes and a giant cultural shift in America ... I can’t wait to start filming.”

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