In a shocking bit of news on one of the final days of the NBA season, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the NBA Hall of Famer, announced Tuesday night that he was stepping down from his position as president of basketball operations with the team with which he played his entire career, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The announcement came as part of what reporter Dave McMenamin described on Twitter as an impromptu press conference. Johnson also said that he loves Jeannie Buss, the owner of the team, “like a sister.”
“I want to go back to having fun,” Johnson said, per ESPN.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, also on Twitter, Johnson “never fully committed to the job,” as he often traveled away from the team and didn’t show the time commitment typical of a league executive. “His office hours were limited. He didn’t do a lot of scouting,” the reporter added. ESPN had reported earlier in the day Tuesday that Johnson and Luke Walton, the Lakers’ coach, hadn’t spoken to one another in weeks.
Johnson, who won several championships with the Lakers in the 1980s and even briefly coached the team in 1994, took over as the team’s lead decision-maker in early 2017, replacing the team’s longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. His tenure originally showed promise, especially once LeBron James agreed to join the Lakers as a free agent in the summer of 2018. The Lakers were expected to compete, even though they didn’t add a second star to add to James and signed such veterans as Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell Pope.
However, James’ first season with the Lakers was a disaster, with the team failing to gel, the Lakers’ nucleus of young players not taking a leap forward, and the Lakers distracted by a months-long pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis. While Davis had requested a trade and was thought to have interest in coming to Los Angeles, the trade was never consummated, although the talks served as a distraction when most players on the team were mentioned in rumors.
Ironically, both executives involved in those talks, Johnson and the Hornets’ Dell Demps, are no longer in their positions, as the Pelicans fired Demps in February.
Wojnarowski also said that while the Lakers’ coaching staff had expected to be fired after Tuesday’s game, they’re now left in limbo.
The season, in which the Lakers have posted a losing record, marked James’ first time missing the playoffs since the second year of his career, in 2004-’05.