An under-the-radar HBO show gets alternate ending after suddenly being cancelled

Winning Time
(Image credit: HBO)

There won’t be a buzzer beater for Winning Time. The HBO series, charting the rise of the L.A. Lakers dynasty in the 1980s, has been cancelled just minutes after its season 2 finale – with an alternate ending suddenly wrapping up the show in relatively awkward fashion.

HBO confirmed that Winning Time’s second season would be its last – with the show using an alternate ending not shown to critics to give at least some closure to the show.

The original ending – one which was screened for reviewers – saw Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah) slumped over and coming to terms with his team’s loss to the Boston Celtics in the 1984 NBA Finals. 

The new ending, an epilogue-of-sorts, wraps up the rest of the story. Taking place days later, John C. Reilly’s team owner Jerry Buss walking on the court with his daughter Jeanie (Hadley Robinson). They talk about Jeanie one day taking over the Lakers before a montage, highlighting the real-life future exploits of the team, is shown.

Co-creator Max Borenstein tweeted, "Not the ending that we had in mind. But nothing but gratitude and love."

Speaking to Vulture, executive producer Kevin Messick revealed the new ending, filmed in January, gave HBO the choice of endings, depending on the show’s future.

"It was a creative problem that we needed to come up with a solution for: What would [an ending after two seasons] look like? Whether we liked it or not, it was a problem that we had to solve," Messick said. 

"And so we prepared before the strike, and delivered to HBO, two different versions of the ending so that HBO would have both options by the time the show started airing and ratings came in and reviews and all that."

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Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.