Although HBO has already wrapped season one of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty with a full cast of actors portraying different NBA legends, role players, coaches, and executives... their job casting the show isn’t done yet.
This was confirmed via a casting call posted on Monday from Jeff Pearlman, author of the book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, which Winning Time was based on.
The show has already started work on season two, with executive producer Adam McKay calling season three “a maybe” before season one even started. Since another season of the TV show means another season spent covering the pseudo-real-life Lakers, HBO will need to find a new set of actors ready to step in and play a few more characters based on figures from in and around the Showtime Lakers.
The first season of the show started and ended with the Lakers winning the 1979-80 NBA championship, with the second season presumably set to pick up where the last one left off. However, the show will likely run through at least a couple more campaigns, as characterizations of Laker legends like Kurt Rambis and Mitch Kupchak — who each joined the team in ‘81-82 — are set to make appearances. The casting call even includes mention of James Worthy, who entered the NBA as a Lakers rookie in ‘82-’83.
Among those names, the most relevant to Lakers fans nowadays is likely current front office member Kurt Rambis, and boy, do I have the perfect actor to play him.
Enter Nicholas Braun a.k.a. Cousin Greg of Succession (also HBO).
And this isn’t some kind of “comedy” article. I really do think there are a handful of legitimate reasons that Braun could believably step into the Converse shoes/kicks of 1980s Kurt Rambis:
Kurt Rambis is Cousin Greg, apparently?
If you’ve watched Succession (or maybe even if you haven’t watched), you know exactly who Braun is. Across three seasons of the nine-time Emmy-winning dramedy, Braun has shown the ability to capture audiences’ attention to the point of becoming arguably the show’s most popular character despite entering the show as one of the lesser-known actors among its ensemble.
He’s done this by playing one of the most hilarious, awkward, and foolish characters amongst a cast full of equally funny, but much more tough-nosed characters. Braun’s talent for pulling off zany antics would provide a solid backbone for a stellar stab at playing Rambis on this show — especially if stories like the following from Pearlman’s book make the final cut:
“Another time, the ever-eclectic Kurt Rambis entered the locker room, slipped out of his practice clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist. He picked his jockstrap off the floor, held it to his nose, glanced towards [Earl] Jones and said, ‘This is my favorite part.’ He inhaled deeply.”
Or maybe even this one, coming via Rich Brown, Rambis’ close friend and classmate from Santa Clara University:
“When most players departed the Forum after games, they carried a gym bag, usually lightly packed with some socks, a T-shirt, maybe a pair of shorts. ‘But not Kurt,’ said Brown. ‘Oh, no.’ Rambis’s tote, weighing somewhere between thirty and forty pounds, would be stuffed with any and all items from the team pantry. Cans of sodas. Bottles of beer. Bars of soap. Q-tips. Shoelaces. Hubcaps. Hall & Oates records...”
“‘Kurt was weird as sh*t—just batshit cuckoo,’ said Frank Brickowski, a future Laker teammate. ‘A six-pack of soda is—what—two-fifty? He showed me a closet in his house, loaded with all the soda he collected for free. Fuck, I’m guessing Kurt didn’t even drink soda.’”
And those don’t even include some of Pearlman’s wildest Rambis facts. In 1982, Rambis spent every night of the year on an old mattress on Huntington Beach. Or, that he called his eventual wife Linda “weird” for playing video games.
Although the folks behind Winning Time have a documented history of straying from the realities of the team at times for dramatic effect, they really wouldn’t have to get too creative to make some uproarious scenes involving Braun’s Kurt Rambis.
If they film some of the above from Pearlman’s book while also having Braun dive all over the floor during games like Rambis was known to do, he could end up being a scene-stealer in Winning Time, just as he has been in Succession.
Braun is TALL
Most of Hollywood’s most notable/bankable actors, like Tom Cruise and Robert Downey, Jr. (sorry Maverick and Iron Man), are a decent bit shorter than six feet tall.
If that’s the case for you as an actor, then you’re about as likely to become a player in the NBA as you are to play one on this television program. As noted in the casting call, the show’s producers have stuck to actors who at least approximate the size of the athlete they play.
Quincy Isaiah (Magic Johnson) is 6’3’’, Dr. Solomon Hughes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is 6’11’’, and even established star Jason Segal (Paul Westhead) is 6’4’’.
Braun would fit right in amongst the trees as he measures a mighty 6’7’’!
Although it took a little Hollywood magic to make Isaiah look like the 6’9’’ Magic Johnson, the crew wouldn’t have to work especially hard to sell Braun as the 6’8’’ Rambis.
The Home Box Office loves recycling actors
HBO has been known to bring beloved actors from one show back as entirely new characters in later projects.
My personal favorite example of this is the late Michael K. Williams, who starred as the infamous Omar in The Wire, before later returning to HBO for The Night Of, Lovecraft Country, and Boardwalk Empire.
Succession is Braun’s biggest break since debuting as a Disney star in Sky High, but maybe HBO sees this as an opportunity to create some extra hype for the second season of Winning Time while also starting Braun out on the “HBO-lifer” path.
Now, as the casting call notes, basketball experience is more important than acting experience for these roles, which means next season’s Lakers could be played by relative unknowns.
However, if the Winning Time creators expect to lean on the Rambis experience as a central source of humor on the show, then maybe Braun is a performer that makes almost too much sense not to cast.
If they do go that route while cookin’ up this second season, I hope they decide to crack some Greggs and bring Nicholas Braun into the mix.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. If the ‘Winning Time’ creators would like to take this idea, they can contact Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry for his proper payment.