Don’t expect the upcoming Lakers docuseries to be the next Last Dance

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson
Photo: Getty Images

2022 will be the “Year of the Lakers.” Not on the court, necessarily, but definitely on our television screens.

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Less than a month after HBO announced it’d be picking up a series called Showtime, based on Jeff Pearlman’s book of the same name, and detailing the lives of the ‘80s Lakers, Hulu has stepped in with a 9-part docuseries covering the past FOUR decades of Lakers basketball.

Obviously, this series will draw lots of comparisons to The Last Dance, Netflix’s 2020 series covering the ‘90s Bulls and Michael Jordan’s final season in Chicago. Headed by Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, this could be a great chance to take a deeper look at some of the most iconic basketball characters of all time — like Magic, Kareem, Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson — again. But don’t hold your breath that this series will be as good as The Last Dance.

What made last year’s Bulls biopic so compelling was its focus on Jordan — and Jordan only. Sure it had sidebars covering Rodman’s role in Chicago, Pippen’s incredibly team-friendly contract, and Jerry Krause’s decision-making, but all of it eventually circled back around to its effect on MJ. While we don’t know much about the upcoming Hulu series right now, 40 years is a lot of history to cover in just nine episodes. There are so many compelling Lakers storylines to talk about, but trying to include every one of them will only produce a jumbled mess of incoherent and shallow narratives. I want to see them delve into how Magic Johnson’s rapid rise to superstardom affected Kareem’s legacy in LA. I want to watch as the documentary goes deep into how Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had personal issues, but were able to put those aside for the greater good of the team. I want to see outlines of the Chris Paul trade that never happened, the 2013 superteam that couldn’t live up to all the hype, and how news of Magic contracting HIV affected the entire Lakers organization. All that being said, I’d much rather watch a 9-part series about any one of those events than nine standalone episodes covering different moments in the team’s history.

The Last Dance was one of the surprise hits of 2020. However, its vast effect on the sports landscape last year was most likely a result of the COVID pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, the show was great and still holds its own nowadays, but there’s almost zero chance it would’ve had the same impact had it aired under normal circumstances. By 2022, the United States should see almost a full return to normalcy from the pandemic. And because of that, it’s almost impossible that the Lakers series will live up to its Chicago-centric predecessor.