With the 2018-2019 regular season having officially concluded with a series of unbelievable performances from the Houston Rockets setting an NBA record for most threes made in a single game at 27 to Jamal Crawford going off for 51 points at 39 years of age, the Detroit Pistons erasing a 22 point deficit to secure the 8th seed, Paul George and Maurice Harkless hitting game winners in two separate games in the same night that have huge playoff seeding implications, future hall of famers Dirk Nowitzki and Dwayne Wade dropping 30 points before announcing their retirement and one of the most competitive playoffs set to begin there are many revolving storylines around the NBA; however, despite this, what has dominated headlines has instead been Magic Johnson.
While Magic’s decision to step down had been a seemingly forgone conclusion in the future for many due to a series of well-documented blunders as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, nobody expected him to resign after only a year long tenure. The insight he gives into the state of the organization internally along with his own life, however, are resounding.
Somebody is gonna to have to tell my boss because I couldn’t face to face tell her.4:13
What I didn’t like was the backstabbing and the whispering… I didn’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.2:33
We [Magic Johnson and Jeanie Buss] are on the same page. In terms of she gave me the power, that was the same page. And I could have done anything I wanted to do tomorrow [April 10], but I decided to step down.16:11
Putting it all together – what it all means
Not only was he unable to tell his boss, Jeanie Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers that he planned to resign prior to holding an impromptu press conference, but the fact that he specifically cited internal dysfunction as evidenced by the “backstabbing and the whispering” shows just how fractured the organization is.
While he does state he did not want to tell Jeanie in person because he didn’t want her to see him break down emotionally, I find that hard to believe. Throughout his career as a basketball player and up until he took this position, he had faced numerous forms of adversity far greater such as contracting HIV.
He then goes on to shut down the perceived misconception that Jeanie had been hindering him from making basketball decisions as the president of basketball operations and alludes to the notion that, had he not resigned, he would have fired Luke Walton the following day.
All of this, coupled with reports that Magic also wanted to fire the general manager, Rob Pelinka, due to conflicting visions leads me to suspect that, despite Jeanie Buss denying these reports, that there is some truth in them. Both Luke and Pelinka were not only hired by Jeanie Buss, but Jeanie has made it known since the beginning that while she has ceded control of all basketball operations to Magic, that she still endorses Luke and Pelinka.
This aligns with Magic’s statement that he did not want to ruin the relationship between him and Jeanie and felt incredibly constrained in his position.
Having said all that, it seems as if to me that Magic resigned because he believed he wasn’t getting support from ownership to do what he needed to despite him having the power to make decisions and because of all the drama associated with the organization as a whole. Between constant media leaks to downright false reports along with an ESPN article speculated to be released soon documenting Magic’s mistreatment of employees (which he has long since known had been in the works and vehemently denies these claims) and being undermined and unable to make decisions due to the relationship dynamics, he had had enough.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, he has made a multitude of disastrous decisions, and the criticism that came along with that likely also played a role in his decision to resign. Despite this though, as Magic alluded to in the conference, the Lakers are actually in a really good position. Between the promising young talent to the fact that most individuals are on expiring contracts mean that they will have the cap space to since a marquee free agent along with a series of role players to pair alongside both them and Lebron.
While it was a move that shocked everybody, it just made sense, from Magic’s perspective and the Laker’s perspective to part ways. Magic is now free to pursue a multitude of new opportunities while the Lakers can start anew internally. Whether that means getting rid of Luke Walton, which many believe will be the case and Rob Pelinka or one and not the other, everyone seemingly needed a fresh start and this is what it affords them all.