Magic Johnson Explains Why He Won't Be Watching 'Winning Time' (Exclusive)

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Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynastypremiered Sunday on HBO, a star-studded miniseries that gives fans a look back at the legendary NBA franchise's incredible Showtime Era run in the 1980s.

One Lakers legend who won't be watching, however, is Magic Johnson himself. Winning Time kicks off with Johnson being drafted to the Lakers, and the way he -- along with his teammates and an eccentric team of coaches and executives behind the scenes -- helped bring basketball into a new era. But for Johnson, there's no looking back.

"It's hard. I won’t watch it because it’s hard to duplicate," Johnson told ET at the Los Angeles premiere of Apple TV+'s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey on Monday. "You can’t duplicate Showtime."

"First, on the court, I mean, we just did our thing, it was up and down," he explained. "And then off the court -- because unless you were a Laker, or you’re a Buss family [member] -- because you can’t duplicate Dr. Jerry Buss -- and the Laker Girls and Paula Abdul and what that meant, I mean, it started on the court and it went all the way up."

ET spoke with Quincy Isaiah, the actor who plays Johnson in the Winning Time series, about portraying the superstar's early years at the show's premiere last week.

"You get to meet him as a 20-year-old, seeing him being pulled from Michigan and being thrust into this spotlight that's in Los Angeles, California, and playing for the NBA," Isaiah said of where his portrayal of Johnson's journey begins. "We meet him at a point in his life where he isn't this icon yet, and you get to see a little bit of where that comes from and how he grows into that. But also, he's just a kid, you know? And you see the mistakes and the mountains and valleys of becoming this well-renowned figure. It's great."

winning time quincy isaiah as magic johnson
Getty Images/HBO

For Johnson, however, he's not interested in watching a scripted version of his life -- even if it is directed by Adam McKay and adapted from Jeff Pearlman's best-selling book, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.

"You just can’t duplicate it," he added. "So I’m not gonna watch. Now, if the Lakers or myself or some Lakers have something to do with it, then I would, but it’s just- You can’t copy that, it's just too much."

On Monday, the basketball legend was out in Los Angeles to support his friend, Samuel L. Jackson, who steps into a new role as Ptolemy Grey'stitular character -- an old man with dementia, who is able to temporarily recover his memories and use them to investigate the murder of his nephew.

"He just blows me away, because every role you don’t know it's Sam Jackson," Johnson raved of his pal's performance. "I said, 'Man, that’s my friend!' He is in total character, doing his thing, and so we're just happy God has blessed us to all be just great friends."

No stranger to awards himself, Johnson also celebrated the fact that Jackson will be presented with an honorary Oscar at the upcoming 2022 Governors Awards. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the news last summer, with Academy President David Rubin saying in a statement, "Sam Jackson is a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres and generations and audiences worldwide."

"He deserves an award, because he's really made the business proud,"  Johnson noted. "Here’s this actor who can take any role and make you fall in love with him, make you hate him, make you cry, whatever it is, but he loves the film business and he promotes it all the time. I’ve learned more by being his friend... I’m glad they’re finally honoring him, because he deserves this."

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey premieres Friday, March 11 on Apple TV+. Winning Time is streaming now on HBO Max.

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