The 10-part docuseries Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers has its first two episodes available on Hulu now, with single episodes being released each Monday afterwards through Oct. 10. The first episode covers Dr. Jerry Buss purchasing the team, getting his family involved, and his role in the 1979 decision to draft Magic Johnson first overall, while the second episode covers Johnson’s 1981 trade request and the shift from Paul Westhead to Pat Riley as coach.
Ahead of the series’ premiere, current Lakers’ controlling owner and docuseries executive producer Jeanie Buss spoke to Awful Announcing as part of a press day around the series. While there have been plenty of projects covering the Lakers, Buss said this one stands out for the first-person perspectives, and that made her want to be involved with it.
“It was important to me to share our story of the Lakers as told by the people who lived it. The beginning starts with my father, Dr. Jerry Buss, buying the team, and establishing a relationship with his star player, rookie Magic Johnson. And that had really never been seen in sports before. Now when we look back at it, people know it and understand it, but how really special and unique it was, we wanted to tell that story.”
“And I wanted to be part of that project to make sure we did all the research. We interviewed over 75 people to get everybody’s side of the story, and we were hearing things that even I hadn’t heard before.”
Even with Buss living through the subject matter here, she said she learned plenty of unexpected things from the project.
“There were a lot of surprises. I think one was understanding how because of my dad’s close relationship with Magic Johnson, maybe there was some envy on the part of players on the team, asking ‘Magic, are you part of the front office, or are you part of the team?’ And you know, you really hadn’t seen that kind of locker-room/ownership relationship take place. The players talk honestly about it, and I found that fascinating.”
She said her favorite part of working on it was talking more with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“The thing that I really enjoyed was it gave me an opportunity to spend more time with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. When my dad bought the team, I was 18 years old and very intimidated by him. Now, he’s become such an important voice, not only to our team and to the NBA, but to society. He is a treasure. I hope younger people will really appreciate his journey and hear him talk about being a Laker and what it meant for him.”
The series is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who’s also an executive producer, alongside Haven Entertainment’s Kevin Mann, Michael Mann and Brendan Bragg, Los Angeles Media Fund’s Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman, longtime Lakers senior executive Linda Rambis, and editor/writer/executive producer Steven Leckart. Fuqua hass made plenty of notable movies (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, Bullet Train and more) and documentaries, including What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali and The Day Sports Stood Still. Buss said Fuqua was the perfect choice to direct this because of his ability to tell an entertaining narrative.
Antoine: “Antoine is one of the greatest storytellers in the business. It was having him be able to put the story together in a coherent way that not only makes sense of a very interesting story, but also makes it entertaining.”
Buss said she’s hopeful this will appeal to long-time Lakers’ fans who lived through the Showtime era, but also a younger generation that might not know as much about it.
“The hope is that Laker fans will love the deep dive into things that they had never heard, but I’m also hoping that a new generation of Laker fans will learn about who Dr. Jerry Buss was, and how so many of the things that he brought to the NBA exist because he brought them. People hadn’t really thought about ‘How is it that the Laker Girls were established, and why?’ And we explain that. So I think there’s going to be a new generation of fans that will be entertained.”
And she said she thinks there’s appeal even for those not that interested in sports.
“I think even people that aren’t sports fans will find the human side very interesting. It’s a business that’s under constant media scrutiny. There are human beings involved, and sometimes it gets messy. And there’s just the human experience of family and work.”
Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers has its first two episodes available for streaming on Hulu now, with further episodes following each Monday through Oct. 10.