EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Filmmaker Antoine Fuqua’s ties to the Los Angeles Lakers run through his hometown of Pittsburgh. Norm Nixon played college basketball at Duquesne University before becoming a Lakers first-round pick in 1977, and Fuqua was a fan of his play at point guard.
But doesn’t every fan have a story of loyalty to a favorite team?
That doesn’t make Fuqua unique, but he’s been tasked with leading a Lakers project and creating something unique, which isn’t easy given the proliferation of Laker-related content on and off the court. just in 2022.
“The goal was to really keep the focus on family,” Fuqua said.
That meant a heavy emphasis on the late Dr. Jerry Buss and his children in “Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers,” a 10-part docuseries that premieres Monday on Hulu.
Buss, who died in February 2013, earned a reputation as perhaps the best team owner in modern sports. Long before Mark Cuban was seen as blurring the line between ownership and players, Buss was befriending a young Magic Johnson, which didn’t go over well for some used to a player/owner dynamic. different team.
It’s a reputation his children have had to uphold in the nine years since his death. The Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship but also missed the playoffs seven times in the past nine years.
Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Lakers had only missed the playoffs five times since debuting in Minneapolis in 1948.
The Lakers won a title in 1980, Buss’ first year of ownership, beginning the “Showtime” era and the first of 10 championships in his lifetime and 11 in total for the Buss family. The story of Buss and his six children is the most intriguing part of Lakers lore – not just Buss’ children, who have all been on the show, but also the family environment nurtured between him and the players in the game. over the years. There’s also the power dynamic between siblings and how that affects how the Lakers would be run.
Jim Buss got his turn in charge and the Lakers struggled. Jeanie Buss, now team president and majority owner, became the first woman in the NBA to own a championship team in 2020. Who’s in Charge, How They Became In Charge, and Stories of Siblings Trying to understand where they fit into the sport – or if they even wanted to play the sport – are layers of the story being told.
“Obviously the family drama that happened in the process of success was also important,” Fuqua said. “But the most important thing for me was the family aspect. That’s the part that I don’t think I’ve ever seen from the mouth of the family.
‘Legacy’ features the Buss kids, which sets it apart from Johnson’s documentary, Apple TV+’s ‘They Call Me Magic’, or HBO’s dramatized ‘Winning Time’, which didn’t have the Lakers in attendance. and raised well-documented disagreements from those portrayed on the show.
“Everyone we asked to participate agreed to be interviewed, and everyone tells about their experience because the fans know what happened on the pitch,” Jeanie said. “But they don’t know what happened behind the scenes, and that’s what we wanted to show, that’s what happens after the game and the effect winning has on people, on a family.”
More about the family adds to what makes the Lakers one of the best sports dramas. This episode of Laker content offering insight into how the Buss siblings tried to figure out where they fit in the hierarchy offers the franchise a chance to take control of the stories that have been released, whether through the traditional media or movies.
“It feels like the Lakers are trying to take ownership of their own Hollywood heritage,” Rotten Tomatoes editor Mark Ellis said. “I think that’s why we keep coming back to the Lakers as a great subject because they’re based in Hollywood and it’s a city where we like to tell stories that have flash, that have flair.”
Getting to the root of the Buss family story is central to Hollywood history.
Dr. Buss was a chemist who found success in real estate before buying the Lakers. Several things worked in his favor for the early success. The Lakers already had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his future Hall of Famer Jamaal Wilkes. There was Nixon, who would go on to become a two-time All-Star, and the Lakers won the coin toss that allowed them to draft Johnson.
But the Lakers weren’t the only talented team in the league. Buss brought spice to the franchise and changed the way the sport would be perceived by the public. He injected sizzle into a league that desperately needed something to capture the public’s attention.
“He was the first guy to incorporate entertainment, sports, sex, single ownership,” Nixon said. “The first year he bought the team with our style of play, then we won the championship. So you’re in LA, all the biggest stars, everybody’s at the game.
“People watched the game on Sunday afternoon just to see who is coming to the red carpet. When you combine his philosophy with the Laker girls, and we end up being a really good team with that style of play, I think that created the hype.
Along with the hype was the established family approach. It’s something that Fuqua sought to share with “Legacy.” The process showed Jeanie how deep it was as she heard the stories of players who had been traded but returned to the organization in some capacity.
“How the players became a family, how this relationship started and how Dr. Buss, really on a handshake sometimes, made deals with these guys and kept his word to them,” Fuqua said. “The players who were traded came back to work for the organization, things like that.”
Abdul-Jabbar played at UCLA but started his NBA career with Milwaukee. His admiration for the way Dr. Buss treated him during his tenure remains.
“He always spoke of me with appreciation and paid me what I was worth,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I’ve always enjoyed that.”
That’s why, beyond the pressures that LeBron James and Anthony Davis have to keep Lakers contenders, there’s scrutiny and pressure on the Buss family, which makes their inclusion in the series all the more intriguing.
Dr. Buss was a millionaire who managed not to lose touch with his fan base. He had a keen sense of what Los Angeles fans needed. “Legacy” is a glimpse into how his children have navigated life continuing the standard their father set by making the Lakers a unifying force in Southern California.
“Everyone talks about seats on the floor, celebrities and high prices, but he always made sure he had seats that were the same as what it would cost to go see a movie so families could come,” Jeanie said. It was very inclusive; he wanted everyone to be a Laker fan no matter where you came from.
The Buss clan makes it worth revisiting the Lakers again.
“I think it’s a story worth telling over and over again,” Ellis said. “Although, like many people, I’m sick of seeing this uniform.”
But the Lakers are Hollywood. So Ellis and the rest of us know this won’t be the last time we see Laker uniforms featured in one form or another.
That’s how Dr. Buss would have imagined it.
(Photo by Jeanie Buss: Harry Comment/Getty Images)