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Winning Time: Why Paul Westhead Looks So Familiar

One of the major players in HBO's "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" is head coach Paul Westhead, who led the team and its rookie star Magic Johnson to an NBA championship in 1980. Westhead didn't last long enough at the organization to see the rest of their titles in the "Showtime" era, as he was ousted in his third season with the team due to pressure from both ownership and Johnson himself, who wanted a shift in offensive strategy. Nonetheless, Westhead was a key piece in kicking off one of the greatest runs the Lakers have ever had.

Though he was booted from his job in Los Angeles, Westhead had a successful career in the decades after, coaching at both the professional and college levels of the game. In 2007, he became the first head coach to win a championship in both the NBA and the WNBA, claiming the national title with the Phoenix Mercury and a young Diana Taurasi — the first of three championships for the league's all-time leading scorer.

In "Winning Time," Westhead is portrayed by Jason Segel, an actor more famous for his comedy work than for his dramatic chops. Nonetheless, he does a strong job as Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's coach, bringing to bear the acting skills he's shown off in a wide range of movies and shows over the years.

Jason Segel is most famous for playing Marshall on How I Met Your Mother

If you recognized Jason Segel in "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty," chances are it's because of his starring role in "How I Met Your Mother." The hit CBS sitcom ran for a whopping nine seasons from 2005 to 2014, spawning a Hulu spin-off years later and becoming one of the defining comedies of the 2000s. Segel's Marshall Eriksen is one of the core five characters through the entire run of the show — a role that made the actor a household name.

Of course, "How I Met Your Mother" wasn't Segel's first major role in a hit TV series. His big break came in the late '90s when he appeared in the cult classic "Freaks and Geeks" alongside future Hollywood stars like Seth Rogen and James Franco. Produced by Judd Apatow, the show was Segel's first project with the writer-director, and they collaborated again a year later on the short-lived series "Undeclared."

Though "How I Met Your Mother" helped turn Segel into a movie star, he's continued to appear on various TV shows since the sitcom ended. In addition to "Winning Time," he created and starred in the spooky thriller "Dispatches from Elsewhere" for AMC in 2020 and the acclaimed Apple TV+ show "Shrinking" with Harrison Ford in 2023.

Segel has starred in big movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Jason Segel's professional relationship with Judd Apatow in the early 2000s led to some film roles that remain iconic today. He appeared in the 2007 comedy "Knocked Up," starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl, and played the leading role of Peter Bretter in 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

Since those career-establishing parts, Segel has featured in a number of other films both comedic and dramatic. He's played supporting characters in movies like "Bad Teacher," "Friends with Benefits,' and "Come Sunday." He's also had a lot of leading roles, starring in 2012's "The Five-Year Engagement," "Sex Tape," "The End of the Tour," and "Our Friend."

Though his early film roles and tenure on "How I Met Your Mother" established Segel as a comedian, many of these more recent projects have shown his immense range as an actor. He's played major roles in everything from grounded emotional dramas to weird science fiction stories, and he's been more and more involved behind the camera as the years have gone by. His performance as Paul Westhead on "Winning Time" is just part of that impressive modern resume, and it's not even his first time playing a historical figure on screen.