'Winning Time' filmed, but deleted, Jack Nicholson mooning Celtics

Jack Nicholson always had courtside seats to Lakers games. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 5 | Jack Nicholson always had courtside seats to Lakers games. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Editor's note: This article contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of "Winning Time."

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty cast Max E. Williams as famous Lakers fan Jack Nicholson. But Salli Richardson-Whitfield said Sunday's season finale, which she directed, had to omit a scene in which Nicholson moons the Celtics' fans.


"He actually mooned the Boston audience," Richardson-Whitfield told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "He went to [Boston] Garden and mooned them."

Richardson-Whitfield said she filmed Williams recreating Nicholson's moon, but decided it did not fit the tone of the episode.

"We shot it, but it felt a little bit too comical," she said.

The season finale depicts the 1984 championships between the Lakers and Celtics. The Lakers lost that series after tying it in Game 6.


Nicholson is still featured on the sidelines in some of the games. Richardson-Whitfield said Williams improvised Nicholson's taunts to the Boston players and crowd.

"Knowing Jack, he could have said anything," Richardson-Whitfield said.

The finale includes highlights from each game, among them Kevin McHale (Andrew Stephens) clotheslining Kurt Rambis (Joel Allen) on the court, both teams sweating through Game 6 at the Boston and a riot breaking out after Boston won Game 7.

"Our big thing to figure out is how do we show you these things that you can watch on YouTube at any point and still make it exciting?" Richardson-Whitfield asked rhetorically.

Likewise, the director said it was challenging to make the season finale exciting for fans who already knew the Lakers lost. She said the show achieves that by delving deeper into the players on the court in-between those famous highlights.

"It's showing you stuff that you can't see on YouTube, showing you the heart of the game, showing you what Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird may have been thinking during those final moments," Richardson-Whitfield said.

Though known for calling his own teammates "sissies," the focus of Bird's (Sean Patrick Small) aggression in Winning Time is his opponent, Johnson (Quincy Isaiah).


Johnson was setting records for assists in Game 3, causing Bird to reassess the Celtics' defense.

Though the trash talk they exchange in the show gets rather personal, Richardson-Whitfield said she believes that came from respecting each others' prowess.

"I think it's a mixture of 'I want to beat that guy' and 'I admire that guy,'" she said. "That fuel of competitiveness is what you're seeing there."

Richardson-Whitfield said the heat in Boston Garden in June 1984 affected the Lakers, who were used to playing in air conditioned arenas. To recreate that heat, Richardson-Whitfield said, the show added drips and drops to the banners hanging in the arena, but the rest was achieved with special effects.

"We had more atmosphere pumped in so you'd get that smoky feel," Richardson-Whitfield said. "Every shot before we shoot, everyone has to run into the side and literally just get dumped with water."

Even the background actors playing fans in the stand got wet for the shots, she said.

When the riot breaks out after the Celtics' victory, Winning Time freezes the frame to confirm that certain events occurred in real life. Richardson-Whitfield said the show's editors presented that idea during post-production.

"We really wanted to make it clear when things were true or when we changed things and shifted them a little bit," she said. "Because people would assume that that is a lie, we wanted to really make it clear -- nope, this happened, this happened."


Richardson-Whitfield has directed five episodes of WInning Time so far, and she had hoped for a Season 3 so she can direct the Lakers' victory. However, on Sunday HBO cancelled the series.

"It would be very sad to end it here," Richardson-Whitfield said, before news of the cancellation broke.

An actor since the '90s in shows like Family Law and movies like Antwone Fisher and I Am Legend, Richardson-Whitfield transitioned to directing episodes of her SYFY series Eureka. Directing has kept her busy with The Gilded Age, Wheel of Time and Altered Carbon, in addition to Winning Time.

"I thought I was going to be doing both and then somehow I started directing and never had the time to act again," she said. "I realized that maybe this is what I'm supposed to be doing."

Winning Time is now streaming on Max.

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