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HBO’s 1980s Lakers Pilot Finds Its Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

HBO’s untitled pilot about the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s has cast two key roles.

Variety has learned that Quincy Isaiah has been cast as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, while Solomon Hughes will star as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the hour-long drama. The Johnson character is described as being as gifted in the game as he is magnetic in his life. His fast-paced, captivating style of play revolutionizes the sport of basketball even as his style of celebrity transforms the social fabric of the culture.

The Abdul-Jabbar character’s intelligence, talent, and political activism have made him a living legend but his introverted nature leads him to be misunderstood by not only the public, but his own teammates. He is deeply sensitive after a lifetime of betrayals, but the arrival of rookie Johnson sparks his gradual journey to open up to those around him; a quest that re-inspires his love of the game.

Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson helped lead the Lakers to multiple NBA Championships. Both men also set multiple records during their respective careers and are considered to be two of the greatest players in the history of basketball.

Isaiah is an actor from Muskegon, Michigan and a recent drama school graduate. Hughes has served as the captain of the University of California Berkeley men’s basketball team, and during his junior season led the Pac-12 in field goal percentage. He played professionally in the USBL, the ABA and the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional Mexico, and was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. He attended graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Georgia, where he earned a PhD in Higher Education.

They join previously announced cast members Jason Clarke, who will play Jerry West, and John C. Reilly, who will play Jerry Buss.

Isaiah is repped by CAA, Impact Talent Group, and attorney Terrence Williams. Hughes is repped by The Van Johnson Company and Barnes, Morris, Klein & Yorn.

Max Borenstein is writing and executive producing the pilot, which is set to begin production in September. Adam McKay will direct the pilot and executive produce through his yet to be named new production company. Kevin Messick of McKay’s company will also executive produce along with Jason Shuman. Jim Hecht co-wrote the story and will also executive produce. Scott Stephens will also executive produce with Rodney Barnes co-executive producing. The pilot is based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.”
(Pictured: Quincy Isaiah, left; Solomon Hughes, right)

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