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Breaking Down the Sports Realism in ‘Winning Time’

Sports movies and shows must be realistic. If they’re not they can ruin it for me. The actor Solomon Hughes, who portrays Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was the key factor regarding this. If he had a bad skyhook. In my eyes, it was and still is the most unstoppable shot in the history of the NBA. The dynamic between Kareem and Magic is fascinating.

“Dr. Solomon Hughes already brings this elevated presence when he’s around. So for me, I wanted to bring something different, more playful, and childlike. I am playing a 20-year-old. Solomon is a father. He’s the grown-up in the room,” said Quincy Isaiah, who plays Magic Johnson perfectly.

Hughes chimed in as well.

“Numbers back it up as far as the skyhook. You got it right,” Hughes told me. “He has an Mt. Everest record shooting a two-pointer. I totally agree. Perfectly, he’s the one that took it to that form. I shot it religiously. At the park, at 24/7 fitness. Older gentleman would nod with approval. Whoever criticizes me. I’ll hand the ball and ask them to do it.”

Magic vs. Nixon

Both are important players in this movie. Quincy has every mannerism of Magic Johnson down pat. He’s 100% believable, and his play is good. DeVaughn Nixon is a perfect Norm for obvious reasons.  When Nixon and  Magic are going one-on-one at one point was very interesting and well played by both actors.

“It was a little bit of hazing for Magic. Norm controlled the fraternity. Kids were coming in, and he had to show them what was up. In real life speaking to my father, he respected the talent. Who he was, and I never think my dad feared for his job because he put up numbers. He just had to figure out how they would all gel together. I enjoyed beating up on Quincy (chuckles).

The coaching perspectives in this movie were great. Adrien Brody plays Pat Riley and played him perfectly. Showing his full intensity.

“I try to be chill and apply a levelheadedness in real life. That comes with age. I was much more intense when I was younger. It was easy to tap into that. With sport, you win or you lose. You’re in or you’re out. Second best isn’t acceptable. You want to win.”

And Jason Segel had a very hard role, in my estimation, showing the weirdness of Paul Westhead. He was a fixture at LaSalle in Philadelphia and moved west to be the assistant coach of the Lakers.

“The way that I played it which is all I know is this guy; when you dedicate your life to a sport it is everything to you. It’s who you are, and a line was ‘they took my whistle and stuck me behind a desk’. That phone call from Jack was somebody getting their life back,” Segel explained.

Hadley Robinson is the breakout star in this. She plays Jeanie Buss. She becomes a very integral character over time, but in the beginning, wasn’t being taken seriously by her father or grandmother.

“She does eavesdrop quite a bit. She’s very much the fly on the wall but I think it’s for business reasons and personal. There’s so much they don’t tell her. And she’s out of the loop. They treat her like a little girl and she was coming into her own,” said Robinson. “She used it to her advantage, but it could have been misused too.”

This is the second article about the series. I have one more coming.

I'm the author of 10 books. If you're looking for autographed copies just go to my Twitter @Sportsology and DM me.

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