HBO Lakers show

Promising young man Bo Burnham has just “scored” a major role in a new HBO series.

The multi-hyphenate, whose credits include writing and directing Eighth Grade and acting in films like Promising Young Woman, The Big Sick, and Rough Night, will play Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird in the untitled show about the “Showtime” era of the 1980s, in which the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, energized the NBA with their up-tempo, high-flying style of play and captivated the world’s attention with their off-court antics.

Variety reports that Bo Burnham has joined the show’s ensemble as NBA legend Larry Bird, who faced off against the Lakers in epic on-court battles during that era and earned a reputation as one of the best players in the history of the sport. Though Burnham is not the first person who comes to mind for a role like this, it strikes me as a fun piece of casting and I’m excited to see if this show works when it finally comes together; it’s been in development since late 2019. (Also, if you’re curious: Burnham is 6’5”, while Bird is 6’9”.)

Adam McKay (Step Brothers) is executive producing the show and directing the pilot, and Max Borenstein (Godzilla vs. Kong) is executive producing and writing the scripts, which are based in part on Jeff Pearlman’s book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.”

Defined by its flashy, high-energy style, the 1980s Lakers played an up-tempo, fast-break-driven game that exhausted other teams. They won five NBA championships during that decade, occasionally beating the Celtics (their most hated rivals) and sparking endless debates about Magic vs. Bird. But it wasn’t just the players and their highlight-reel skills that pulled viewers in: head coach Pat Riley, who was decked out in expensive suits and slicked his hair back, helped contribute to the “Hollywood” vibe the team refined in those years.

Adrien Brody plays Riley, John C. Reilly plays team owner Jerry Buss, Jason Clarke plays general manager Jerry West, Jason Segal plays assistant coach Paul Westhead, Sally Field plays Jessie Buss, Michael Chiklis plays Celtics coach Red Auerbach, Quincy Isaiah plays Magic Johnson, Solomon Hughes plays Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gaby Hoffmann plays Claire Rothman, Hadley Robinson plays Jeanie Buss, DeVaughn Nixon plays Norm Nixon, Molly Gordon plays Linda Zafrani, Rob Morgan plays Earvin Johnson Sr., Spencer Garrett plays Chick Hearn, Kirk Bovill plays Donald Sterling, Delante Desouza plays Michael Cooper, Stephen Adly Guirgis plays Frank Mariani, Tamera Tomakili plays Earletha “Cookie” Kelly, and Joey Brooks plays Lon Rosen.

ESPN produced a great 30 for 30 episode about this period called Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies that you can watch on ESPN+, but if you don’t want to do that, you can get caught up on Magic vs. Bird mania below:

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