Each week of season two, we’ll be looking back on the newest episode of HBO’s “Winning Time” and fact-checking or adding more details on some of the key and bigger plot points with much of the help coming from the book “Showtime: MAGIC, KAREEM, RILEY, AND THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS DYNASTY OF THE 1980S” By Jeff Pearlman.
The season finale of “Winning Time” was chock full of storylines both on and off the court. On the court, the historic 1984 Finals played out with plenty of drama that could have easily carried the episode alone.
However, off the court, there was plenty to talk about away from the games as well in this episode. Were the Lakers in full chaos off the court in 1984 or was the truth stretched?
Dr. Buss’ divorce
After a rocky first season at times in which a number of liberties were taken, the show actually did a really good job of sticking to the facts. That being said, Dr. Jerry Buss’ divorce seems to be the area they may have taken the most liberties.
As we mentioned in a previous episode, Dr. Buss did have multiple lawsuits after breakups, once each with Veronica Buss and once with Marsha Lee “Puppi” Osborne. Each lawsuit involved famous divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who had a memorable quip to Dr. Buss as detailed in an LA Times article.
“I think ($25 million) is a conservative request,” said famed palimony and divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson, who filed the action on behalf of the woman. “I may amend my complaint later to add more. “But,” Mitchelson quipped, “Td settle for (Lakers superstars) Magic (Johnson) and Kareem (Abdul Jabbar) and $20 million.”
The aspect about Dr. Buss separating from his second “wife” because he was still married to his first wife is true. And an LA Times article headlined “Suit Seeks $100M Turnover by Basketball Tycoon” in April of 1983 exists, though it’s not readily available online.
So, it did happen and roughly in the time frame of the 1984 NBA Finals but it does seem to be quite the coincidence for both to be taking part simultaneously.
Jeanie Buss spilling “secrets”
Surprisingly, all of this story was true. Jeanie Buss, by her own admission in her memoir “Laker Girl,” revealed to her then-boyfriend Jay Wells, a defenseman for the LA Kings, the payroll information. Considering her father owned the Kings and this led to him getting more money, it probably wasn’t all that well received.
I got Jay the information he wanted... This is the age of information. It’s all out there. It’s just a shame there has to be this feeling of disconnect between the owners and the players. It worries me and leaves me uncertain about the future.
It seems wild now that this was a dramatic revelation considering how readily available all the information is, but it wasn’t exactly easily accessible in the ‘80s.
Kurt and Linda Rambis
Kurt got his signature moment on the court in the season finale by being clotheslined. Off the court, though, we got a bit of a peak at his budding relationship with his future wife, Linda.
In Jeanie’s office, Linda mentions how “Kurt wants to see me in the stands.” The two of them started dating in 1982 and would eventually marry in 1985. Four decades later, they’re still very much involved with the Lakers...even if it’s a bit too involved for some.
Now, it’s really hard to undersell how weird Kurt is. “Showtime” is littered with anecdotes about how weird he is, including the origin of his relationship with Linda:
Before long, Rambis turned into a Forum cult hero. Fans arrived wearing fake mustaches, number 31 jerseys and replicas of Rambis’s ubiquitous horn-rimmed glasses. (“They weren’t actually horn-rims,” Rambis later said. “They were special glasses with a rubber frame, so they couldn’t break.”) He appeared in a couple of commercials, and symbolized a certain genre of geek chic. He even managed to meet his future wife, a team employee named Linda Zafrani. (“Our first date didn’t go so well,” said Linda. “He thought I was weird because I liked video games. Kurt thinking anyone was weird was strange.”)
No story, though, more accurately and succinctly describes how bizarre and weird Kurt was than one shared in “Showtime” by Earl Jones, who was only a teammate with Rambis for one season in 1984-85.
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 toward Jones and said, “This is my favorite part.” He inhaled deeply.
Jones waited until Rambis was out of earshot. “That white boy,” he said, shaking his head, “just ain’t got no sense.”
That man now has a say in Lakers personnel decisions.....
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.