HBO’s new show “Winning Time” tells the story about the rapid ascension of the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty in the 1980s after real estate impresario Jerry Buss bought the Lakers from previous owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1979.

John C. Reilly plays Dr. Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, in the new series “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” on HBO. (Image: HBO)

Buss won ten NBA championships as the owner of the Lakers, beginning with Magic Johnson and the “Showtime” Lakers with five championships between 1980 and 1988.

1980Paul WestheadPhiladelphia 76ers
1982Pat RileyPhiladelphia 76ers
1988Pat RileyBoston Celtics
1987Pat RileyBoston Celtics
1988Pat RileyDetroit Pistons
2000Phil JacksonIndiana Pacers
2001Phil JacksonPhiladelphia 76ers
2002Phil JacksonNew Jersey Nets
2009Phil JacksonOrlando Magic
2010Phil JacksonBoston Celtics

In “Winning Time”, Buss is played by John C. Reilly. Reilly is an amazing comedic actor from “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (2007) and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006). But he also did a stellar job in more serious roles with director Paul Thomas Anderson in “Boogie Nights” (1997) ad “Magnolia” (1998).

Buss: Playboy and Visionary

Buss did not just want to own a professional basketball team, but he also wanted to create a new level of entertainment. He provided fans with a visceral experience when they bought a ticket to watch the Lakers play at the LA Forum. Buss wanted a Lakers game to conjure up the same vibe as a visit to the sultry Playboy Mansion meets the glitz and glamour of the Oscars. The creation of the tantalizing Lakers Girls dancers and special courtside seats for A-list Hollywood celebrities like Jack Nicholson brought Buss’ vision to fruition.

The Showtime-era Lakers embodied Southern California in the 1980s with a flashy, upbeat-tempo offense led by Magic Johnson. After Buss purchased the Lakers, his first major roster move included drafting Magic, who had just won 1979 March Madness with Michigan State.

Magic left college after his sophomore year to enter the NBA Draft. In a serendipitous moment, the Lakers were one of two teams eligible for the #1 pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The NBA commissioner flipped a coin to determine if the Chicago Bulls or the Lakers would get the first pick. The Lakers won the coin flip, and the rest is history. Buss insisted on drafting Magic despite reservations from the front office, particularly head coach Jerry West, who felt Magic was too tall to play point guard and too soft to handle the rugged nature of the NBA.

West, McKinney, and Riley

West — who portrayed as a surly, alcoholic, malcontent in “Winning Time” — decided to quit as head coach of Lakers after Buss bought the team. After he stepped down, West helped the Lakers find a new head coach. He lobbied for Jack McKinney, who was an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers and designed an free-flowing, fastbreak offense that helped them win a title in 1977.

A lot of fans think Pat Riley came up with the high-octane offense synonymous with the Showtime Lakers. However, McKinney’s engineered Showtime with his basic philosophy of a fluid motion offense that aggressively employed fastbreaks, even after made baskets. Magic was the perfect player to run McKinney’s fastbreak offense, much to the dismay of veterans including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

During his first season with the Lakers, McKinney had a serious bicycle accident, and assistant coach Paul Westhead took over. Westhead utilized McKinney’s playbook, and Lakers won the 1980 NBA championship during Magic’s rookie season. Thus, the Showtime Lakers were born. Buss happily celebrated the victory in his first-season as the owner of the Lakers, much to the dismay and disbelief of NBA hardliners like Red Auerbach from the Boston Celtics.

Riley became the head coach after Westhead was fired in 1981, and Riley guided the Lakers to four more titles in the 1980s.

Buss and the Lakers would win another five titles in the new century with Phil Jackson at the helm.

Jeannie Buss, the daughter of Jerry Buss, became the first female majority owner to win an NBA championship when LeBron James and the Lakers won the title in 2020.