Hoops Heaven — Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (American Cinematographer)

Michael Goldman

March 28, 2022

Cinematographers Todd Banhazl and Mihai Malaimare Jr. employ multiple film and video camera formats to lend this period HBO sports series an air of authenticity.

Photos by Warrick Page, courtesy of HBO

The production of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — the new HBO series about the 1980s ascent of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team — traveled a particularly unorthodox visual path. According to Adam McKay, show executive producer and one of its directors, that path was designed to inject a true story with the tongue-in-cheek, sometimes-hyperbolic storytelling tactics envisioned by showrunner Max Borenstein and his writers. Painstakingly reproduced historical moments, involving dozens of real-life figures who contributed to the Lakers’ rise, are liberally woven together with comedic scenes that periodically break the fourth wall like backboard-shattering dunks.

Once McKay saw that the blend of historical accuracy and comedy worked in the script, “I realized we were going to have some fun with this show, as far as its style and look were concerned,” he says.

McKay and the show’s two cinematographers — Todd Banhazl, who shot the pilot and five more episodes, and Mihai Malaimare Jr., who shot the additional four episodes — say one of their big visual goals was to capture what McKay describes as “a special time in America,” with “major cultural shifts” happening as the Lakers regained their momentum as a hallowed sports dynasty. As Banhazl stated in the “visual bible” he created for the show, the ultimate objective was to create “an American-culture mixtape.”