Winning Time Season 2 Episode 1 Recap: Magic Suffers an Injury

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty‘ season 2 follows the LA Lakers basketball team, dominating the NBA with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the center of the limelight. The first season ends with the Lakers crowned NBA Champions and Magic announcing himself to the world. However, the second season picks up after the initial success as Magic suffers a major professional setback, resulting in clarity in his personal choices. Meanwhile, the Lakers are forced to play without their rising star. How the Lakers fare without Magic and how Magic deals with his injury and personal issues mark the conclusion of  ‘Winning Time’ season 2, episode 1! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Winning Time Season 2 Episode 1 Recap

The second season premiere, titled ‘One Ring Don’t Make a Dynasty,’ opens with a flash forward to the 1984 NBA Championship Finals between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The Lakers beat the Celtics in their own backyard and are forced to flee the stadium. However, coach Pat Riley psyches up the team for the upcoming Finals series matches, and the Lakers are determined to defeat their bitter rivals to the title. The story then moves back to 1980, with Jerry Buss preparing for the new season with his backroom staff. Buss meets his archnemesis Red Auerbach, who reveals he has picked up some of the strongest players for his front quarter, paired with star player Larry Bird.

Image Credit: Warrick Page/HBO

Meanwhile, Magic Johnson is advised by his lawyers to pay Melissa Mitchell a one-time settlement for their child’s birth. However, Magic is conflicted about the decision. Elsewhere, Head Coach Paul Westhead and Assistant Coach Pat Riley prepare for the new season, with Westhead focusing more on the team’s personality than strategies. On the other hand, Captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar returns after an injury but lacks his former physical prowess. As a result, Magic believes the team should move on and replace Kareem. However, Kareem is determined to prove his worth to the team.

Jerry brings his daughter, Jeanie Buss, and sons, Jimmy and Johnny Buss, to live with him at the mansion while also involving them in the family business. However, only Jeanie shows some penchant for the trade. Meanwhile, Jerry tries to raise funds to pay his players top-dollar, tying them up to long-term contracts before the free agent rule kicks in. However, his ex-wife, Jessie Buss, refuses to sign on the new investors unless Jerry frees his children from the burden of joining their family business. Elsewhere, Magic’s parents intervene, convince him to deal with his legal situation with Melissa like a man, and encourage him to fulfill his fatherly duties.

The Lakers start the new season with a bang but face a major hurdle when Magic suffers a knee injury. As a result, he is sidelined for nearly twelve weeks, and the coaches are forced to play without their best player. As a result, Westhead proposes a new strategy that allows the team to play without Magic’s improvisations and Kareem’s physical dominance. Instead, Westhead asks his players to follow a run-and-gun style, dubbed the “System,” which the squad is initially skeptical about. Meanwhile, Magic’s injury forces him to reconsider his life choices, and he attempts to reconcile with his on/off girlfriend, Earletha “Cookie” Kelly.

Winning Time Season 2 Episode 1 Ending: Does the System Work?

In the episode, Westhead introduces a new style of play that allows the LA Lakers to cope with the absence of Magic and Kareem’s reduced physical prowess. However, it requires the players to take more shots, which will reflect badly on their stats. Westhead insists that it would not matter if the team wins, but the players remain skeptical. The Lakers end up on a losing streak and deliver one terrible performance after another because of Magic’s absence. However, a speech from Westhead about their passion for the game and will to prove the naysayers wrong galvanizes the team.

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The Lakers are encouraged to try Westhead’s “System” and produce great results on the pitch. The high-intensity, shooting-oriented style involves players constantly rotating positions to take shots with limited passing and almost no dribbling. Ultimately, Westhead’s system works, and the Lakers’ performances gradually improve. However, it also becomes evident that the new style is not sustainable, especially when Magic and his shrewd improvisational skills make a return. Nonetheless, the Lakers enjoy their present success and are well on their way to another playoff birth on the back of solid team performances.

Does Magic Return to the Team?

By the episode’s end, Magic fires his agent and starts his rehabilitation program. However, the isolation gets to Magic as he cannot return to form as he practices alone. In the final moments, the Lakers play against their arch-rivals Boston Celtics, with Magic appearing as a spectator. However, Magic’s mere presence seems to take away the spotlight from the players actually on the court. The moment signifies Magic’s star status, directly contradicting the team’s new playing style. Westhead’s “System” is driven by a team spirit that requires the players to perform well as a unit, reflecting on the Lakers’ brand image and style of play. However, Magic is used to being the center of attention and stealing the limelight with his performances. Therefore, seeing how Magic will fit back into the fold under Westhead and Riley in their new system will be interesting.

Read More: Winning Time Season 1 Finale Recap and Ending, Explained