Magic Johnson had the title he’d always wanted.
Anything he wanted to do as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, he had the power to do. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss told him that repeatedly.
There was only one thing Magic wanted. That simply being Magic Johnson.
Beloved civic leader. International celebrity. Lakers legend. Basketball ambassador.
That’s what Magic was good at.
Being president of basketball operations for the Lakers is hard. So, he abruptly quit Tuesday night.
“I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson said. “When you gotta make trades, you’re not happy.”
He didn’t like: “the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.
“The fines and the tampering and the this and the that, I can’t help young men who want me to help them, or I can’t tweet out. Like Russell Westbrook, that was a great feat the other day. I couldn’t even tweet it out to say, ‘Hey, congratulations.’ If I had did that, everyone would have said, ‘He’s tampering.’ I don’t like that. I like to be free.”
He also really didn’t like having to make the decision on whether to keep coach Luke Walton or not.
Magic Johnson spent a little more than two years as the Lakers’ president.
But it was also a cruel thing to do to a woman he considers to be family.
“I want to thank my sister for allowing me to do this,” Johnson said of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. “I couldn’t face her to tell her, so I had to do it this way because we love each other so much.”
Some are saying leaving the way he did, feels a lot like bailing when things got hard.
Those close to Johnson say he was “deeply offended” by the constant accusations of tampering that followed him and essentially forced him into the shadows this season.
Jeanie Buss was just as stunned as the rest of the world to hear Johnson’s resignation. In addition to being stunned, those close to the family said they were sad, angry and disappointed.
She spent the rest of Tuesday night huddled with general manager Rob Pelinka.
Johnson’s quotes about Pelinka fell far short of a ringing endorsement, which made many wonder whether that factored into his decision to step down.
“Do I think Rob is the right GM?” Johnson said. “That’s a decision Jeanie has to make. I worked well with him. I had no problems with him. Now they say he had some bad, I don’t know about that. A lot of my agent friends had called, but Jeanie has to make all the calls, that’s not calls for me to make. This is her organization.”
The power is back with Jeanie Buss. Now, the question is, will she use it or go find someone else to hand it over to.