Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty has come to an unexpected end.
EW can confirm that the '80s-set sports drama has been canceled at HBO. On Sunday night, the Adam McKay-produced series — which has spent two seasons tracing the careers of the Showtime-era Lakers — surprised fans with a conclusive finale.
Director Salli Richardson also referenced the news with an Instagram post showing the Lakers locker room. "When you give it everything you've got, you can have no regrets," she captioned the photo. "I hope you enjoy the last episode of [Winning Time], 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."
Representatives for the series declined to comment.
Jeff Pearlman, who authored the book that the series is based on, warned fans of this possibility earlier this month, writing on social media that the show was "fighting hard to survive."
He continued, "Viewership [keeps] going up, up, up. But if you want HBO to renew it and keep it going (and not have it fucking end with Boston winning), we need views."
I'll be blunt: "Winning Time" is fighting hard to survive. Viewership keep going up, up, up. But if you want HBO to renew it and keep it going (and not have it fucking end with Boston winning), we need views. Seriously. It's the best show on TV. But #s matter. #winningtime
— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) September 7, 2023
The second season indeed culminated with that somber loss for the Lakers, who suffered a heartbreaking NBA finals defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Afterward, the saga abruptly concluded with a montage set to Pat Benatar's 1982 hit "Shadows of the Night," explaining what each character would go on to accomplish.
Warrick Page/HBO DeVaughn Nixon, Quincy Isaiah, Delante Desouz in 'Winning Time'
In a subsequent interview with Vulture, executive producer Kevin Messick confirmed that this scene was shot ahead of time in case of cancellation. An alternate ending would have see Magic Johnson (played by Quincy Isaiah) absorbing the devastating defeat.
"We prepared before the strike, and delivered to HBO, two different versions of the ending so that HBO would have both options by the time the show started airing and ratings came in," Messick explained.
Speaking about his desire to make the show in 2022, devoted NBA fan McKay told EW that although he was once a hardcore Boston Celtics fan, he couldn't deny the influence of the Showtime Lakers.
"I hated the Lakers in the '80s — they were the villains," McKay said. "It wasn't until later that I realized, no, the Celtics were the villains, and the Lakers were actually incredible; they changed the way basketball is played, the way it related to the culture, and the way celebrities were created out of the sport."
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