Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5: Recap & Ending Explained – Getting back on the rails

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5: It isn’t a spoiler that Paul Westhead wasn’t a Laker for life. You can Google the Lakers to know about all the events being shown in the show, but that would mean sacrificing the performances and the entertainment. But that was relatively fast, taking Westhead out of the picture. While it is appreciated that the management immediately did not take the obvious route, the show still doesn’t completely shed the feeling of being like a fast-forward through the pivotal moments of the Lakers’ journey. It’s a shame because, amidst all of that, the show is still entertaining.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Recap:

Episode 5 –  Hamburger Hamlet

Poor Paul Westhead. When even your daughter knows that you are going to get fired, the joy of seeing her and his wife at the titular Hamburger Hamlet goes out of the window, especially considering “Magic Johnson is more famous than Rick Springfield.” But Paul Westhead was supremely confident that it would be sorted because he is still considering and operating on the basis that the coach’s word is final and that the empowerment of the coach is absolute in the sport of basketball.

The problem, according to this show, at least, is that basketball comes at a crossroads with Dr. Jerry Buss’s decision. And it is not an easy decision to make, as Jerry West and Bill Sharman can attest, with both sides at fault here. But while Dr. Jerry Buss believes that he can coax Magic back into action because he is like a “son” and it also eerily reminds me of Westhead’s disparaging comments to the press about Magic’s statement being a result of “youthful petulance.” Both of the “adults” would get a sharp knock on their egos. Buss gets it directly from the horse’s mouth when Magic meets with Buss and doesn’t back down but is resolute. He states that the 25 million dollars that Buss is hanging over his head like a guillotine is because he has earned them due to being the best player on the team. He refuses to work with Westhead because he is teaching them elementary-style basketball. So now the ball is in his court, figuratively.

But that’s the perspective that Buss takes and runs with because Westhead enters and sees Bill and Jerry West contemplating the list of coaches. He even tries to have a last pow-wow with Magic, but even then, Westhead can’t shake the elementary school teacher aspect and tries to recontextualize their issue as a lesson to be learned. In a rare moment of alacrity, Magic just looks at the camera and says, “How about that? But that is what happens. Westhead is called into Buss’s office and is unceremoniously fired, and even while Westhead argues that Buss is cowing down to a 20-year-old’s temper tantrum, the reality is Buss is bending over to player empowerment because the star player sells the game, or it will in the near future, even if they aren’t cognizant of that shift yet.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Recap
Solomon Hughes in Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

From there, the episode shifts to who will take over the coaching duties. And even as Jerry West is completely against taking over the coaching duties, he is begged by Buss to take over in a transitory capacity. This leads to that infamous press conference (nice touch on the “Yep, this really happened” as a way to emphasize that while the show is larger than life, reality has been strange enough). To be perfectly blunt, the conference was a massacre because Buss, to please every side, appointed West as “offensive captain” while Pat Riley would stay over and look after everything else. It’s a weird state of limbo, which, while helpful for the Lakers locker room because they are finally free from the Westhead “system” shackles, doesn’t automatically work without a singular hand to guide these many egos.

And egos have an ugly habit of rearing in or becoming relatable to the generation they belong to. Magic Johnson’s method of effectively firing Westhead finds an ally in Jeannie Buss, who understands and is appreciative because she knows how much her father truly believes in the Lakers. Thus, she is okay with Magic’s reticence in the 7-Up ad campaign. As for Buss, his ego gets a knock because it comes into conflict with the ego of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who, in a rare moment of hindsight-filled clarity (which could also be taken as bluntly obvious writing to be fair), reminds Buss that the 25 million for 25 years is a deal for the young buck, which has become a life sentence. After all, in 30 years, that amount will become the base salary for future generations of basketball players. And he was and still is right.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Ending Explained:

It’s Pat Riley who the episode finally chooses to focus on—his internal battle with becoming like his father or choosing to go against the mould of his father and be an encouraging figure. As he openly laments to his wife, Pat Riley, or “Riles,” is more of a friend to the players than a coach. They like him because he encourages them, but they don’t respect him. He listens to their complaints, but they don’t listen to his advice or tactics and go out to do whatever they desire.

But in the locker room, Riley finally snaps. He punches the board and creates a hole in the middle, effectively silencing the locker room. From there, he begins to systematically berate every one of the players and their complaints and chooses to go into the hearts of their issues, finally concluding that all these issues should be put out in the open and discussed man-to-man. Only then could they be a team. This renewed energy is also because, after a string of losses, Riley had been distraught and was sure that he would be fired, but Buss is also sick of being in a transitory phase for so long and officially makes Riley head coach. That outburst and the renewed vigor of Coach Riley rejuvenate the team, where they are both humbled and surprised by the admonition and also stunned at how West is fired as “offensive captain.” Riley becomes the dominating force as a coach, and as future games show, it becomes the key to a winning streak for the Lakers, with the confidence also bringing Riley his share of fame considering his “looks” (he is played by Adrien Brody in the show; of course he has movie star looks).

The episode finally ends with the inevitable conclusion of Buss and his new girlfriend finally marrying, much to the displeasure of Jeannie Buss. But the true ending occurs when the Philadelphia 76ers manage to defeat the Boston Celtics and move to the finals, where they would finally face the Lakers, and the Celtics fans start chanting “Beat LA” to the 76ers. This is heard through the broadcast on the TV screens as well, and the Lakers hear that, break the fourth wall, and just say, “Fuck Boston”. I mean, that’s a pretty decisive statement to end on, to say the least.

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Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Links: IMDbRotten TomatoesWikipedia
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Cast: John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, Jason Clarke, Adrien Brody, Gaby Hoffmann, Tracy Letts, Jason Segel, Julianne Nicholson, Hadley Robinson, DeVaughn Nixon, Solomon Hughes, Tamera Tomakili, Brett Cullen, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Spencer Garrett, Sarah Ramos, Molly Gordon, Joey Brooks, Delante Desouza, Jimel Atkins, Austin Aaron, Jon Young, Rob Morgan, Sally Field, McCabe Slye
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Season 2) Episode 5 Genre: Sports/Drama


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Amartya Acharya

A cinephile who is slowly and steadily exploring the horizons of the literature of films and pop culture. Loves reading books and comics. He loves listening to podcasts while obsessing about the continuity in comics.