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It’s hard to escape the feeling that Hulu’s docuseries Legacy: The True History of the LA Lakersis the answer to a lot of questions asked in a whole other place.
This is due, at least in part, to the seismic impact earlier this year of HBO’s hit scripted series Buying Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynastywhich dramatizes some of the same events featured in Hulu’s Legacy – tracing the Lakers’ emergence as a championship basketball team and pop culture power in the “Showtime” era of the 1980s.
Although the HBO series caught viewers’ attention, it also drew plenty of criticism – as everyone from former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to former coach Jerry West complained of the unflattering license taken by the producers to portray their lives.
In particular, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss appeared on the HBO show as a partying doofus, played by star John C. Reilly as a womanizer who turned a real estate fortune. into an unlikely purchase of an NBA team, throwback to when the league was less glamorous and the team didn’t win championships.
Jesse Rambis / HULU
Legacy features numerous excerpts from interviews with Buss, who died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer. Instead of Reilly’s disorganized impulsiveness, the real Buss comes across as a shrewd, driven businessman with a doctorate in chemistry and a facility with numbers – whose love for sports and a good time led him to reinvent the Lakers, and by extension the NBA. .
Similarly, West is shown in interviews conducted for the docuseries candidly admitting he was tough on Lakers players as a coach – offering a much more low-key demeanor than the Australian actor’s volatile, trophy-throwing portrayal. Jason Clarke in the HBO series. And Abdul-Jabbar, who often seemed aloof and a bit of an asshole winning timeis measured and insightful while answering interview questions to Legacy.
A docuseries produced by the Lakers organization
Jeanie Buss, daughter of Jerry Buss and current CEO of the Lakers, serves as an executive producer on Legacy alongside director Antoine Fuqua, whose credits include scripted films like training day and the Equalizer movies. It’s no surprise, then, that the docuseries features interviews with most of the notable people in the team’s history who are still alive, including players like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and the Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird. Interviewees also include former coach Pat Riley, famous fans like actor Rob Lowe and musician Flea and the six children of Jerry Buss, who held various positions within the Lakers organization when he died.
It’s also no surprise that the docuseries occasionally tiptoes around unflattering controversies, save for the drama surrounding the Buss family and kid jockeys for jobs within his empire. So Legacy does not explore the feminization of Johnson – a subject covered extensively by HBO winning time — or provide insight into how he contracted the HIV virus, which led to his first retirement from basketball.
However, the segment of Legacy at the end of the fourth episode detailing how Johnson told the team he had the virus – at a time when such diagnoses were considered a virtual death sentence – is poignant. Johnson said he broke down crying with Jerry Buss, who had become a father figure to him, the day they held the press conference to announce his departure from the team in 1991.
“I only saw my dad cry twice,” said Jeanie Buss, who herself cried during her interview recalling when they retired Johnson’s jersey after his first start. “Once when his mother, my grandmother, died. And that day.”
Moments that go beyond sports anecdotes
Legacy skyrockets when he tells the kind of stories that would interest more than die-hard Lakers fans. Riley admits he let the fame and praise as Lakers coach go to his head. Jeanie Buss details how her father’s reputation as a playboy who dated a string of young girlfriends helped to torpedo his efforts to buy the Dallas Cowboys football team. Player Byron Scott, raised in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood, has spoken of coping with his mother in drug addiction rehab during his time on the team.
And there are plenty of details about how Jerry Buss grew the basketball business, raising ticket prices in high-profile seats to boost revenue, growing the Laker Girls dance team to add sex. -appeal to halftime shows while developing a celebrity fan base to turn home games into star-studded events. Coupled with the team’s fast-paced style of play, Jerry Buss’ innovations created an exciting presentation that justified the “Showtime” moniker.
Still Legacy tells its story in the style of most sports documentaries, especially in its early episodes, blending archival interviews and game footage with contemporary discussions filmed specifically for the project. And the decision to make the conflict between the Buss siblings a major thread in the docuseries sometimes results in a lot of time being spent telling viewers about people they may not know or care much about.
At the end, Legacy offers unique insights and emotional stories while exploring how the Buss family turned a risky basketball team buyout into a $5 billion empire. It’s also a pretty solid retort to some of the excesses of the HBO series.
But given how much control the family has had over the project, you can’t help but wonder what else is left on the cutting room floor. And how much better these docuseries could be if they left that stuff out.