So much of the reaction to “Winning Time” from those involved with the Showtime Lakers has been almost entirely negative. Whether it has been Jerry West threatening to take matters to the Supreme Court, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar mixing creative criticisms with ones about the portrayals or Magic Johnson disapproving of a show he hasn’t watched, so many of the main characters of that era have done anything but sign off on the series.
But for all the things some perceived they got wrong, one of the things they got right was the role Jack McKinney played in the creation of the Showtime Lakers.
Many Lakers fans, myself included, probably had not even heard of the name Jack McKinney before “Winning Time.” But the reality is, McKinney was the originator of the Showtime Era and while he may not have molded it and perfected it into what Pat Riley and the Lakers were by the middle and late part of the 1980s, he was the man who planted the seed and watched it grow early on.
Unfortunately, McKinney passed away in 2018 and was not around to receive the credit that was due to him. However, his family did get the chance to watch “Winning Time” and the show’s co-creator, Max Borenstein, recently revealed in an interview with IndieWire that McKinney’s family had reached out to those involved with the show with gratitude..
“The greatest satisfaction has been to see the responses from fans and online and from some of the people. In the case of Jack McKinney, we got through Jeff Pearlman a heartbreakingly beautiful series of texts from his family, from his wife and daughters who watched the show. They came in skeptical, of course, but also came away just really emotionally moved and to see their father and husband finally given his due. Even Lakers fans had forgotten that name, but he really was so instrumental.”
Throughout the series, we detailed some of the inaccuracies of McKinney’s quarrels with the Lakers and Westhead specifically but those were minor details that didn’t change the overall fact. McKinney played a vital role in building arguably the greatest era of basketball in NBA history and certainly so in franchise history.
Because of the show, a large subset of fans — both Lakers and NBA — have been exposed to the works of a great coach and someone who did not get the respect he deserved. And that’s something that even West, Magic and Kareem should be able to agree upon.