Sean Patrick Small’s Journey From Authoring His Own Larry Bird Story To Acting As An NBA Legend
Sean Patrick Small has long been aware of his resemblance to Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics.
He wore Bird’s number 33 shirt while trying to polish his own jump shot as a 6’4 child who played basketball.
While it’s not a huge leap for HBO to cast him as Magic Johnson’s competitor in the Adam McKay-exec produced series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty – just look at the visuals – the chain of circumstances that brought him there is a wild tale in and of itself.
After discovering a passion for performing and writing, Small transferred to USC. “How can I try to merge these two things in order to find a route forward?” I was told I resembled Larry Bird, and I’m 6’4 and used to play basketball. “Let’s see if this guy has a compelling story to tell,” he said to Deadline.
When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball, a friend recommended Seth Davis’ book, which recounts a classic NCAA championship game that sparked an epic rivalry between Bird and Johnson.
He then optioned the novel and produced a four-part miniseries based on it, which explored the two stars’ early lives. But it wasn’t just a piece of writing. Small was able to secure Thomas Carter, the director of the Samuel L. Jackson-led basketball film Coach Carter, as a collaborator on the idea, and began pitching it to networks and streaming services.
Meanwhile, the HBO series Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the LA Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s was created by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht and is based on Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the LA Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.
In addition to Jason Clarke, Gaby Hoffmann, Adrien Brody, Sally Field, Michael Chiklis, and Jason Segel, as well as Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, John C. Reilly has been linked to play owner Jerry Buss.
Another issue for Small was that Bo Burnham, an Emmy winner, was supposed to play Bird. He was until he wasn’t.
Burnham had dropped out of the film owing to scheduling issues while traveling from LA to Denver to surprise his wife’s sister during a covert proposal from her partner, a “stars aligning” moment.
He was able to get an audition through his agents, and two weeks later he was cast in the role of Bird. He arrived on-site two weeks later, working with the show’s basketball trainers to perfect Bird’s unique shooting technique.
Small was asked how much he knew about Bird by the creators. He said, “It’s funny you should ask.” “I’ve been working on my own project for a while now, and I know pretty much all there is to know about him.”
Given his fierce rivalry with Johnson, Small, who also works as a senior facilities manager at Endemol Shine North America, concedes that Bird is one of the show’s “villains.” The two are now friends, but they didn’t get close until they were filming a Converse sneaker commercial at Bird’s residence in French Lick, Indiana.
Winning Time is shaping up to be one of HBO’s most talked-about shows this year, with HBO content president Casey Bloys telling Deadline that a second season is a possibility.
Small expects that if the initiative succeeds, it will rekindle his own Bird project. He explains, “We’re still pitching, trying to get it off the ground.”
If he succeeds, it will be a tale to rival Bird’s own.