Fresh off strong reviews for his turn in the Best Picture nominee Promising Young Woman, comedian-turned-filmmaker Bo Burnham has been cast as Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird in HBO‘s untitled series about the Showtime-era Lakers. Meanwhile, Jason Segel has been tapped to play Lakers assistant coach Paul Westhead.
John C. Reilly is set to star as Lakers owner Jerry Buss, the self-made millionaire who transformed the Lakers into a basketball dynasty, sometimes at the expense of those closest to him, while Jason Clarke will co-star as Jerry West, the “cantankerous tortured genius of basketball,” per HBO. West ought to be the perfect man to build the Lakers into a dynasty, if only he could get past his own worst enemy — himself.
Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Sally Field have been cast as coach Pat Riley and Jessie Buss, the mother of Jerry Buss, whose business partner, Frank Mariani, will be played by Stephen Adly Guirgis. L.A. slumlord and future Clippers owner Donald Sterling will be played by Kirk Bovill, and Spencer Garrett will be famed Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn.
On the court, newcomer Quincy Isaiah and former UC Berkeley basketball captain Solomon Hughes have been cast as Hall of Fame teammates Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, respectively, while Norm Nixon will be played by his own son, DeVaughn Nixon. Finally, Delante Desouza will play Michael Cooper.
Elsewhere, noted character actor Rob Morgan will play Magic’s father, Earvin Johnson Sr., and Tamera Tomakili will play Earletha “Cookie” Kelly, Magic’s girlfriend and future wife. Joey Brooks will play Lon Rosen, a Forum employee who went on to become Magic’s agent, while Molly Gordon will play Linda Zafrani, another Forum employee who would later marry former Laker Kurt Rambis.
The HBO series is based on Jeff Pearlman‘s non-fiction book Showtime, which chronicled the personal and professional lives of the Showtime-era Lakers — a team that defined its era, both on and off the court. Adam McKay directed the pilot and is executive producing alongside Kevin Messick and writer Max Borenstein as well as co-writer Jim Hecht. Jason Shuman, Scott Stephens and Rodney Barnes round out the EP team.
In an exclusive interview with Collider, Borenstein recently described the series as “a love letter to basketball” that will have a structural resemblance to Netflix‘s The Crown. Bird was a constant thorn in the Lakers’ side throughout the ’80s, so it makes sense that #33 would pop up in this show, which is also expected to cast someone as Jack Nicholson.
Burnham wrote and directed the acclaimed indie Eighth Grade for A24 before playing Carey Mulligan‘s love interest in Promising Young Woman, which is up for five Oscars next month. Burnham stands tall at 6’5″ — only four inches shorter than Bird — so he should be able to pull off the role with the help of a feathered blond wig and some less-than-kind facial prosthetics. I can’t wait for the first images from this show, which is shaping up to be a doozy for HBO.