Actor Sean Patrick Small has revealed how he prepared for the role of basketball legend Larry Bird in the HBO drama series ‘Winning Time’. The show, which chronicles the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty in the 1980s, features Bird as the star player of the rival Boston Celtics team.
Small’s Long Journey to Become Bird
Small, 31, told TheWrap that playing Bird was a “dream come true” for him. He said he had been working on a miniseries about Bird’s life since 2014, which helped him learn about his backstory and personality. He also trained with basketball coach Idan Ravin to master Bird’s signature moves and skills on the court.
“I get to act, play basketball and get paid to do so, while being one of, if not the, greatest [basketball players] of all time,” Small said.
Small also had to undergo a physical transformation to resemble Bird, who is known for his blond hair and mustache. He said he dyed his hair and grew a mustache for the role, as well as wore contact lenses to match Bird’s blue eyes.
“I wanted to make sure that I looked as much like him as possible,” Small said.
Small’s Favorite Scenes as Bird
Small said he enjoyed shooting the scenes where he got to showcase Bird’s basketball prowess and trash-talking skills. He said he practiced playing in jeans for a scene in episode 3, where Bird tries out for Indiana State University after dropping out of Indiana University.
“It was something that I made sure to practice. I don’t think anyone ever actually thought I was going to come to rehearsals in jeans, but I knew that I had to do that in order to make sure that it felt real the day of,” Small said.
Small also said he loved working with Michael Chiklis, who plays Celtics coach and general manager Red Auerbach. He said Chiklis was a mentor and a friend to him on set, and helped him understand Auerbach’s relationship with Bird.
“He was always there for me, always giving me advice, always making sure that I was comfortable and confident,” Small said.
Small’s Inspiration from Bird’s Story
Small said he was inspired by Bird’s story of overcoming adversity and achieving greatness. He said he learned a lot from Bird’s work ethic, determination, and passion for the game.
“He was someone who came from nothing and made something out of himself,” Small said.
Small also said he hoped that viewers would appreciate Bird’s legacy and impact on basketball history. He said Bird was more than just a rival to Magic Johnson, who is played by Quincy Isaiah in the show. He said Bird was a trailblazer and an icon for the sport.
“He changed the game forever,” Small said.