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Recommended: Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers on Hulu

TV's latest look at the 80s basketball titans adds a juicy layer about the fraught family that owns the team.
  • Jerry Buss and Magic Johnson celebrate the Lakers 1980 championship victory in an image from Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers. (Photo: Hulu)
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    Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers | Hulu
    Sports Docuseries (10 Episodes)

    What's Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers About?

    In 1979, with the National Basketball Association hanging by a thread, the Los Angeles Lakers were purchased by real estate developer Dr. Jerry Buss. Under his ownership they became the most successful NBA team of the 80s, establishing Lakers basketball as an entertainment phenomenon. This 10-part documentary is not only a sports success story, but also the tale of a family dynasty, with Buss trying to usher his children into the business.

    Who's involved?

    • Dr. Jerry Buss made his millions in real estate, but his flamboyant playboy lifestyle matched the flash and decadence of the "Showtime" era Lakers.
    • Jeanie Buss, Jerry's daughter, was still in business school when her father began putting her in charge of his various sporting interests. Eventually she became the controlling owner of the Lakers herself. She's also the executive producer of this documentary.
    • Johnny, Jim, Janie, Joey, and Jesse Buss, Jerry's other children, were involved to varying degrees in their father's businesses throughout the years.
    • Magic Johnson was the Lakers' #1 draft pick in 1979, and would quickly become one of the greatest NBA superstars of all time. His close relationship with Buss helped define his team.
    • Pat Riley ascended to the position of head coach and led the Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s.
    • Antoine Fuqua, the director of films like Training Day and The Magnificent Seven, directs all ten episodes.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Sometimes a subject is just the hot property in Hollywood. In the mid-90s, there were three competing Amy Fisher biopics on TV. A few years ago, both the O.J. Simpson documentary and the limited series arrived within a few months of each other. Right now, we're in the midst of a vogue for the 80s Lakers and the exploits of Dr. Jerry Buss.

    For the most part, owners of sports teams are only as compelling as their money. It's hard to imagine that anybody would give a damn about Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft if they didn't have millions of dollars to throw around while feeding their egos. But with his open-collared shirts and playboy lifestyle, Jerry Buss was a different story. It's always made sense that he was the guy who turned a struggling team in a struggling basketball league into the hottest ticket in town, drawing the glitziest stars to Inglewood to watch the best basketball team in the world. Buss's innovations in the sports viewing experience ranged from the on-court product — led by Magic Johnson, the "Showtime" era Lakers prided themselves on a fast and flashy offensive style that was hugely viewer-friendly — to ancillary attractions like the Laker Girls.

    This is why it's no surprise that Buss and the Lakers have already been the subject of two recent projects: Winning Time (read our review), the HBO dramatic series that was outrageous enough to draw condemnation from the real-life people involved, and They Call Me Magic (read our review), a more fawning tribute to Magic Johnson.

    Legacy, The True Story of the L.A. Lakers lands somewhere between those two projects. It was produced in part by Jeanie Buss, who is currently the controlling owner and president of the Lakers, and while her late father's carousing is definitely mentioned (it was part of his brand, after all), this isn't a series that's out to expose him. Indeed, all of his business decisions, brushes with financial collapse, and meddling in the basketball operations of his team are painted with the most generous brush.

    What makes Legacy intriguing — especially in light of who's producing it — is how much it insists on being a story not just about the Lakers, but about the Buss family dynasty. Jerry Buss died in 2013 (he appears in this series via archive interview footage), and while Jeanie is the controlling owner, the team is officially owned by the Buss Family Trust. From the opening minutes of the series, it's clear that the six Buss siblings have had their share of rivalry.

    Is the story of the Lakers more interesting as the tale of a multi-millionaire owner who moved his kids around like chess pieces? Maybe! There are only so many times you can hear about Magic vs. Bird or even the Shaq-Kobe rivalry. Your mileage may vary on how fascinating you find a bunch of rich kids squabbling over their sporting inheritance, but at the very least you've got director Antoine Fuqua making it all move at a brisk pace (and at ten hour-long episodes, that's a feat).

    Pairs well with

    • HBO's Winning Time, just to see how John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, and an incredibly starry cast managed to make the real-life figures involved in the Lakers' story so angry.
    • Apple TV+'s They Call Me Magic, which is a Magic Johnson-approved hagiography through and through, but is still a highly watchable series.
    • HBO's Succession, if only to remind yourself of how rich kids trying to take over the family business from their unruly father can be savage and funny.

  • Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers
    Premieres on Hulu Monday August 15, 2022. New episodes weekly.
    Starring: Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss, Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Byron Scott, Luke Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal, A.C. Green, Rick Fox, Rob Lowe, Mark Cuban, and Flea.
    Directed by: Antoine Fuqua.

    TOPICS: Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers, Hulu, A.C. Green, Antoine Fuqua, Byron Scott, Flea, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy, Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Luke Walton, Magic Johnson, Mark Cuban, Pat Riley, Rick Fox, Rob Lowe, Shaquille O'Neal