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‘Winning Time’ showed how entertaining non-fiction can be when its subjects aren’t in the way

The Showtime Lakers may have hated it, but HBO’s “Winning Time” was entertaining in large part because its subjects weren’t involved in the process.

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MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At the height of the pandemic, “The Last Dance” provided viewers some kind of a return to sports and a shot of nostalgia that helped make up for a world temporarily without athletic entertainment. Fans got to relive one of the most dominant stretches in NBA history, and got a closer look at what made Michael Jordan tick.

It also didn’t really teach anyone much, and has since led to other superstars putting together their own multi-part “documentaries” that often feel more like commercials.

So when “Winning Time” promised a more honest approach to the Showtime Lakers, one of the most interesting teams in NBA history — and the subjects of the show bristled at not being involved — I’ll have to admit it made me that much more interested in the show, and viewers were likewise rewarded with a hugely entertaining experience.

This week on “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I spoke to Sopan Deb of The New York Times to discuss this approach to storytelling, and the more macro trend of public relations seeping into journalism; both because the subjects have realized they can control their own narratives better than previous generations ever did and because, well, audiences prefer to maintain their feel good even if it means sacrificing some truth here and there.

Also, because we couldn’t help ourselves, we dove into the MVP debate, as Nikola Jokic has reportedly won his second straight.

You can listen to all that and more on our latest episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.

And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.

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