Basketball legend Magic Johnson announced he was stepping down from his role as the team’s president of basketball of operations. The decision comes a little more than two years after he took on the position in an effort to restore one of the league’s most storied franchises to championship contention.
Johnson made the announcement immediately after coach Luke Walton’s pregame comments, adding that he had not yet informed team owner Jeanie Buss of his intentions to step down.
“I had more fun when I was able to the be big brother and ambassador to everybody,” Johnson said. “I thought about Dwyane Wade retiring tomorrow, and I can’t even tweet it out or be there. When Ben Simmons called and we went through the proper channels and they made me look like the bad guy out of that situation but I didn’t do anything wrong, I was thinking about all of those times, all the guys who want me to mentor them or be a part of their lives and I can’t even do that. I had more fun on the other side than on this side.”
Johnson added that he had not yet told team owner Jeanie Buss or general manager Rob Pelinka of his decision during the time of the press conference.
“I think that with [team owner Jeanie Buss] and I, I want to always preserve our relationship with her,” Johnson said. “Somebody’s going to have to tell my boss because I knew I couldn’t be face-to-face and tell her… I couldn’t stand to tell her.”
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Johnson and Pelinka met with LeBron James and agent Rich Paul on Saturday. Johnson offered no indication that he was on the bring of stepping down.
The Lakers issued a statement following Johnson’s resignation on Tuesday, thanking Johnson for “all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive.”
“We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations and wish him, Cookie, Andre, EJ and Elisa all the best with their next steps,” the Lakers said in the release. “He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family. As we begin the process of moving forward, we will work in a measured and methodical fashion to make the right moves for the future of our organization.”
Buss commented on the news shortly afterward, tweeting, “Earvin, I loved working side by side with you. You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”
The news comes shortly after ESPN reported that Johnson had not spoken to head coach Luke Walton “in weeks.” It was widely believed Johnson was going to fire Walton following the season.
Johnson, who won five titles as a player with the team, was appointed president in March 2017. After building high hopes with the acquisition of LeBron James last summer, the Lakers are wrapping up the season with a record that now stands at 37–44.
The Lakers will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.