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Did “Winning Time” do justice in portraying Pat Riley as a broken man?

A young Pat Riley was depicted as someone who had multiple breakdowns going through the stages of his current dark life.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley sits in the stands

Pat Riley a.k.a. The Godfather

The picture of Pat Riley that NBA fans always have in mind is this classy exquisite man brimming with confidence with his famous slicked-back hair wherever he goes. True enough, that’s who Riley is now, as he’s often seen these days watching the Miami Heat, where he serves as their President.

His famous sophisticated style is constantly alluded to by many, and more often than not, Riley looks calm and collected whenever a camera portrays him these days.

But according to “Winning Time: The Rise of a Lakers dynasty,” this wasn’t who Riley was after his playing days. Portrayed by actor Adrien Brody, Riley makes his debut on the third episode of “Winning Time,” looking the opposite of who he is right now — an unemployed and disoriented man who can’t figure out his life after his basketball career.

Throughout the third episode, a young Riley with his famous mustache was depicted as someone who had multiple breakdowns going through the stages of his current dark life. He was seen destroying his entire garage and holding a burned bat that depicted his father’s lengthy baseball career. Inspired by his wife, Riley was desperate to find purpose in his life, and he did this by applying for a broadcasting role for the Lakers alongside Chick Hearns.

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The best is yet to come.

We are yet to see how Riley turned his life around, but the Godfather himself said that he started from scratch with the Lakers. Riley doesn’t talk much about his life post his playing career and rise to being a head coach. But he did give a glimpse of how his life was in that era.

I returned to Los Angeles as a color announcer to Chick Hearn and was even a ‘traveling secretary’ to the team,” he wrote, as reported by The Ringer. “I can still remember making flight arrangements and handing out boarding passes to players at the departure gate,” Riley added.

According to Brody, playing Riley’s role is “kind of like having faith,” as he does his best to do justice to act out an ironic time in Pat’s life. Thanks to Riley’s books and research about the NBA legend’s life, Brody has had a clear idea of how to approach his role.

“You know where the man ends up and what he’s achieved, and then you’re asked to portray a lower moment in his life and represent a sense of a drive, and maybe failures of belief at certain moments—but ultimately a sense of belief and determination in what you can achieve,”

Adrien Brody, The Ringer

An inspiring story in the making

We’ll never really know if Riley did break his garage or was this miserable back in the day until he confirms it. But his storyline is one to look out for.

It will be interesting to see how the ten-time champion (as an executive and coach combined) goes from rock bottom and a nobody to being one of the best executives in the NBA today. How does Riley overcome a depressing time in his life? How does he climb up the ladder from being a broadcaster to an assistant coach and now executive? Who paved the way for him?

These questions will be answered in the next episodes of Winning Time. 


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