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Winning Time Episode 5 in-depth look at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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The series shifts focus a little bit in this episode

Photo: HBO

What makes Winning Time’s tapestry of stories enthralling is how it reflects the chaotic jazz of our lives. Every character is at odds against the world and themselves. Magic, Jerry Buss, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, each man is fighting a private war. For many of them, it’s a war of the spirit against the flesh. This is why one episode can open with John C. Reilly’s Buss fingering a girl at a restaurant, while this episode, “Piece of a Man,” opens on an Islamic ceremony of a new follower, a young Lew Alcindor, bonding himself with a spiritual renaissance.

The great mosaic of life is like that. It’s at once perverse and profane. As humans, we oscillate between the two at all times. Essentially, this is what Winning Time is about, albeit with some sensationalizing, reflecting what the Showtime Lakers were all about.

This leads to a perfect segway to talk about the show’s theme song. While “My Favorite Mutiny” is a soulful jamboree, a deeper, militant message is ringing forth. Its writer and creator, Boots Riley of The Coup, collaborates with Black Thought of The Roots and Talib Kweli to craft the perfect mid-2000s rap-along treatise. When it came out, the song was in direct opposition to the ring-tone rap which dominated the airwaves. Three of the game’s fiercest lyricists joined together as brothers in arms against the corporate industrial complex of music.

Set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, the creative team behind Winning Time shows us the excess and absence that rocked the city in the late 70s and early 80s. The opening montage reflects the state of America at the time, a harsh chasm between the haves and have nots. Riley and his bandmates probably never imagined their song soundtracking scenes of white women brunching, aerobics, and parasailing. But we also see righteous citizens protesting in the streets, a homeless man smoking crack, and even a scene of African-Americans enjoying brunch. Shit is everything, all at once. As Black Thought punctuates the montage with righteous indignation, we are prepared as an audience for the amalgamation of America’s specific brand of absurdity.

Kareem’s shrugging off of Magic’s nascent chirping in the lead-up before the Lakers’ first game embodies the clash between ideologies at the dawn of the 80s. Some saw the promise of Reaganomics as a framework for spoil and plunder. At the same time, veterans of the American nightmare were familiar with how the chapter would end. Magic wanted to impress the old head with the creative meshing of their two games, while Jabbar was just looking to make enough money to step away from the game and escape the conveyor belt, an insidious mechanism poignantly laid bare by author William C. Rhoden in his book, Forty Million Dollar Slave. The conveyor belt sees the NBA monolith plucking inner-city Black kids from their communities, and planting them on a path toward wealth and distracted from the problems they left behind. Then it isolates and insulates them from the outside world so they lose empathy toward their fellow man. They began to take an “I” approach to life opposed to a “we,” disconnecting them further from the communal plight of their family, friends, and neighbors. At the end of the belt you are left with a solitary figure, alone in his millions, too scared to speak up or cause trouble for fear of losing their comfort. Jabbar was the antithesis of this. He spoke out so much it made his own teammates, those ignorant of their place on the conveyor belt, uncomfortable.

In this episode, we are given a backstory on how and, more importantly, why Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Essentially it boiled down to what should make any of us get mad enough to, as Black Thought says in the intro,

“Move, if you got the nerve

Lash out for your just desserts’”

Back then, as it is now, killer cops were murdering innocent African-Americans. It feels like not much has changed in today’s America, where killers with badges are rarely brought to justice for their murderous crimes. As a youth, Jabbar struggled with his father being a transit police officer as a means to make a living for his son and their family. Cap, as his colleagues affectionately called Kareem, was at odds with his father’s Christian faith and law-and-order mentality. Winning Time shows us, quite obviously at a dinner table scene, Jabbar’s early rejection of a white Jesus and his “turn the other cheek” principles which would come to fuel his outspoken views on war, police brutality, and racial justice throughout his life. It also made him an enigmatic teammate to those he was in the trenches with, especially Magic and new coach Jack McKinney.

Just when you thought the roster was overflowing, the series adds another new player in Spencer Haywood, played by Wood Harris, of The Wire and Empire. As Haywood, Harris becomes the bridge between Jabbar and the rest of the Lakers. Haywood had sued the league and won the right to skip college and go straight into the NBA to provide for his family. He set the stage for Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant to enter the NBA straight out of high school.

In Haywood, Jabbar saw an ally, a fellow soldier willing to stand up for his beliefs in the face of racist power structures. But as the two share a joint in the back of Jabbar’s property, we learn the toll such a moral war took on Haywood’s spirit. Wood delivers a heartfelt, poignant monologue on realizing he had a second chance at life, that is unfortunately interrupted by manic editing. It would have done Wood’s performance justice, had the camera stayed on him in a single take, to let us see his expressions and ticks coalesce. Nevertheless, Wood does some of the best work of his career and should be remembered as an epoch of Wood’s long and illustrious career.

The battles we fight, external and internal, and their outcomes are what will define us. In Winning Time, we are witnessing the diverse cast of characters in the trenches of these wars, public and private. So far, we have seen them try to fight as solitary soldiers. The private losses, especially, have worn on them before they even play their first game. Towards the end of the episode, as their first home game begins, we see Cap finally extend a hand in solidarity to his rook. History tells us the Lakers take a 9 and 2 record to start the season. And by the time coach McKinney takes his faithful bike ride through his neighborhood, they are finally a team. It can be said whatever wars lie ahead, McKinney’s head injury — the arrival of Larry Bird, Magic’s HIV diagnosis — they will face them together.



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Pep Guardiola jokes he’s ‘sorry’ that he stopped Mikel Arteta from becoming Manchester City manager

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Arsenal will face City at the Etihad Stadium tonight, with Guardiola’s former assistant back on his old North West stomping ground in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Gunners head north leading rivals City by five points with a game in hand atop the Premier League, but acutely aware of the challenging taking on the frustrated Guardiola and company.

Arteta left Guardiola’s City setup in December 2019 to take the Arsenal helm, transforming the Gunners in remarkable fashion since.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left here before, he would be here [at City] and he would be the best, absolutely,” said Guardiola, of Arteta.

“But I extended my contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen. But definitely it could have.”

Arteta joined Manchester City’s coaching ranks on retiring as a player in 2016, learning his craft under master tactician and serial winner Guardiola.

City’s former Barcelona boss revealed how Arteta would never celebrate goals against the Gunners, the team he represented more than 100 times between 2011 and 2016.

“He loves the club; I remember when we were together here and we scored goals, he jumped a lot and celebrated – except with one team,” said Guardiola.

“One team, every time we score a goal, I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.”



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R Madrid 3 – 1 A Madrid

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Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior scored in extra-time as Real Madrid fought back to beat local rivals Atletico 3-1 on Thursday and reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

On a freezing night at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu hosting its first game for 77 days due to the World Cup break, Real started slowly and Atletico had many dangerous counter-attacks.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata, right, celebrates with teammate Antoine Griezmann after scoring the opening goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Image:
Atletico Madrid took the lead against their rivals

Atletico captain Koke delivered a brilliant through ball to Nahuel Molina who ghosting in behind Reals defence and the full back set up Alvaro Morata, a former Real academy player, to tap the ball into an empty net in the 19th minute.

Eder Militao wasted a golden chance to equalise in the 32nd minute after Toni Kroos had delivered a perfect cross.

Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring
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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring the opener

It was not only until Dani Ceballos came off the bench to replace the injured Ferland Mendy late in the first half that Real started to play better.

The 26-year-old midfielder injected a new dynamic into the team who were far more aggressive after the break.

Benzema wasted two good opportunities and Federico Valverde also sent a shot wide from just outside the box.

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates
Image:
Real Madrid’s Rodrygo celebrates with team-mates

Substitute Rodrygo equalised in the 79th with a delightful goal, dribbling past three defenders before finishing well.

With Real Madrid in full control, Atletico played most of extra time with 10 men after defender Stefan Savic was shown his second yellow card for chopping down Eduardo Camavinga in the 99th minute.

Five minutes later, Real substitute Marco Asensio sent a low cross into the box and Vinicius’s deflected shot reached Benzema who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the net.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter final soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Image:
Karim Benzema’s goal made it 2-1 in extra time

Vinicius secured Real’s win in the dying seconds with a brilliant individual goal, running half the length of the pitch before scoring with a low shot.

“We got behind very early and after Mendy’s injury the whole team had to be rebuilt. But we woke up and played really well after the break,” Ceballos told TVE.

“They played better in the first half, but the coach corrected things in the second; we took control of the ball and found the goal. Then, after the red card, everything was easier.”

Real Madrid joined Barcelona, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals.



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Everything we know about Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle

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Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.

Patrick Mahomes examines his ankle last Sunday against the Jaguars.
Image: Getty Images

It’s conference championship week. With only four teams on the NFL schedule this week — the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals — one interesting storyline can dominate the entire conversation leading up to the games. This time, it’s QB Patrick Mahomes’ ankle.

The fact that this storyline is the dominant one heading into the weekend makes sense. He’s the best player in the league, and his team is hosting the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Also, the game is taking place one week after he suffered a high-ankle sprain and was still able to hobble the Chiefs to victory — aided of course by a timely 98-yard touchdown drive that was led by backup quarterback Chad Henne.

How mobile does Mahomes look right now?

Since his right ankle got rolled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, no leg in America has had as much attention on it as his. Not even Brent Maher’s as he overcame his kicking yips during the Dallas Cowboys’ loss on Sunday to the Eagles. Mahomes’ ankle has so much attention on it that Fox 4 KC’s Harold R. Kuntz has been filming him walking down from the press conference podium the last two days. And by filming Mahomes, I mean only his legs.

Thursday update: Mahomes didn’t even need to use the stairs.

Knox’s assessment: Don’t be a hero… until Sunday.

Kuntz isn’t the only reporter on the scene sharing video footage of Mahomes’ mobility. During the portion of practice that was open to the media, many videos were sent out of Mahomes moving around. As the Chiefs were warming up, Mahomes actually jogged and spun as he headed toward his next station. He is certainly running better than he was on Sunday.

In their comments to the media, Andy Reid said that Mahomes “did a nice job and was “comfortable with what we did.” Mahomes said that he believed his Wednesday practice went, “better than I expected.”

For Chiefs fans — and those of us who want to see a well-played AFC Championship Game — this news out of Kansas City is the best we could’ve received. On the Chiefs’ most active days of practice, Mahomes was seen moving very well. Also, he and the head coach both gave positive updates about the health of the most important leg in sports this weekend.

Will the ankle affect Mahomes’ play on Sunday?

There is no possible way that Mahomes will be 100 percent against the Bengals. They are going to test that ankle by trying to apply the same type of pressure that disrupted the Buffalo Bills during the Bengals’ Divisional Round win on Sunday. However, if he can move around all game as well as he has been in practice, he will be able to play well enough for the Chiefs to have a chance at victory.

We’ve received the closeup and overhead views of Mahomes’ health. All that is left is the view at Arrowhead Stadium from the CBS cameras at 6:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 29, 2023.





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