Legacy: The True Story of the Lakers | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers

Hulu, August 15, 2022

Aug 10, 2022 Photography by Jesse Rambis/Hulu Web Exclusive
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After the frenzy that Last Dance, the Chicago Bulls’ suspense-driven docuseries rightfully created, every basketball team feels like they have a story to tell. And they probably do. None are worth documenting more than the Los Angeles Lakers, whose slew of iconic athletes, and equally iconic management and coaches, shaped their legend—which precedes that of all NBA teams.

HBO got on the ball, so to speak, with Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. The fun dramatized series, based on the Jeff Pearlman book, focuses on the personal and professional lives of the “Showtime” Lakers in the 1980s. While Winning Time is a “winner” with audiences, it hasn’t been with the former Lakers, particularly Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as general manager, Jerry West, all of whom have been very vocal about their displeasure with the scripted series.

The Lakers take matters into their own hands with Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers. The 10-part docuseries is executive produced by Lakers CEO and controlling owner, Jeanie Buss, daughter of maverick mogul Dr. Jerry Buss, and directed by the award-winning Antoine Fuqua (What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali).

The story of Legacy is really that of Dr. Buss, the real estate tycoon, who came from nothing, bought the Forum, the Lakers, the Kings, and the much lesser wattage Lazers (Los Angeles’ indoor soccer team). He later formed the Los Angeles Sparks, the forerunners in the WNBA. Dr. Buss changed basketball by turning sports into entertainment. He came up with the Laker Girls based on his love of college football. He set up the Forum Club—still a golden ticket to this day—making it a celebrity hotspot dance club, a big post-game draw. He raised the ticket prices for Laker games which had turned into “celebrities watching celebrities.” But he only did that for the big baller seats closer to the court, keeping the prices of the higher up seats low so all fans could afford to come to a game.

Legacy features amazing images from as far back as the 1930s and for decades after. The fantastic video footage is the best that could be captured at the time, and the most insider view of the team you could access. Plus, it features period music that goes a long way in heightening already pretty heightened emotions, which is the default state where the Lakers are concerned.

In addition to the artifacts and media, the series follows the prescriptive talking heads documentary model. But, it has all the key figures from the Lakers: Magic Johnson, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Norm Nixon, Bob McAdoo, Kurt Rambis to Vlade Divac, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox, and more. Plus, they have superstar coach, Pat Riley, and the aforementioned Jerry West, as well as one-time Bulls coach-turned Lakers coach, Phil Jackson. There are players from rival teams such as Larry Bird and rivals-turned-teammates, Isaiah Thomas and John Salley—Salley’s account of being busted looked at the Laker Girls mid-huddle is priceless. There are celebrity interviews with Laker game regulars Rob Lowe, Flea, Snoop Dogg and Lou Adler. And they have Dr. Buss’ children, for whom he created this empire and who provide unfiltered, if not always congruent accounts of their experiences, which makes Legacy all that much more real.

Dr. Buss put his children to work, starting at the very bottom of his enterprises, to see who had a passion for what he was creating, which proved to be Jeanie. This family ethos is what Dr. Buss brought to the Lakers. This connection proved to make the team stronger as a unit both on, and off, the court. To hear anyone in the Lakers franchise speak about him, he was a father figure and a caring person, even when he was trading players.

Magic’s accounts of his times with Dr. Buss are simply, umm…magical. One certainly gets the impression that Dr. Buss took Magic under his wing and gave him special attention, spent a lot of time with him, took him out to dinners and to the Playboy Mansion. Magic’s descriptions paint a tangible picture of Dr. Buss’ patented charisma.

There were backfires, however, when the team felt that Magic was spending too much time with Dr. Buss, calling the shots on managerial decisions and causing the firing of coach Paul Westhead. He had no friends on the team, and bigger rift was created when Magic was the recipient of a $25 million/25-year contract with the Lakers, unheard of at the time.

Legacy is a 360, in-context view of the Lakers. This includes head coach Pat Riley getting his fair share of airtime as one of the most notable individuals in basketball. In contrast to Magic, Riley was spending his time with the players after the game. His slicked-back hair and sharp suits were a big influence on popular culture as well as in film and television.

All of this is just in the first two episodes of this 10-part series, which premiere back-to-back. Subsequent single episodes will drop weekly.

Legacy starts strong and only gets stronger. It’s a multi-generational family dynasty real-life drama far more riveting than any dramatized version. Legacy unpacks every aspect of the Buss clan and the Lakers, always keeping the one-of-a-kind Dr. Buss at its center. From creative ways of generating money, such as putting the name of the bank to which Dr. Buss owed money, Great Western, on the Forum—now a common practice, and starting the sports cable network, Prime Ticket, to Magic first revealing he was HIV-positive to his teammates and soon after to the world at a press conference and the ceremony of retiring his jersey, there is so much to talk about.

It’s not like Legacy has any surprises, the history is already cemented. But the way the story is told, the in-depth and personal unpacking of this decades-long saga will make a Laker fan out of you—that is, if you aren’t one already. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a sports fan or not. Basketball is simply the backdrop, the intertwined story of the Lakers and the Buss family is the only one of its kind. (www.hulu.com/series/legacy-the-true-story-of-the-la-lakers)

Author rating: 9/10

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