Magic Johnson Fallout: News, Rumors, Reactions, More

In the wake of Magic Johnson‘s abrupt resignation on Tuesday night, the Lakers issued a statement thanking him for his work with the franchise over the past two years.

“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive,” the statement reads. “… 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.”

While Johnson admitted in his impromptu press conference on Tuesday that he didn’t inform owner Jeanie Buss of his decision to step down before announcing it to the press, Buss – at least publicly – showed no sign that she was angry about the move, though ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne hears from those close to the Buss family that they were “sad, angry, and disappointed.”

“Earvin, I loved working side by side with you,” Buss tweeted. “You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”

Reactions to and additional details on one of the most surprising developments of the NBA season have poured in over the last 12 hours, so we’ll round up many of them in the space below. Let’s dive in…

General news/rumors:

  • Johnson met for three hours with Buss on Monday to discuss the Lakers’ direction and gave no indication he was planning on leaving the organization, tweets Chris Mannix of SI.com. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka also visited with LeBron James and agent Rich Paul on Saturday and similarly gave no indication that he was thinking about stepping down.
  • Sources tell Ohm Youngmisuk and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that Buss, Pelinka, CFO Joe McCormack, COO Tim Harris, and manager of special projects Linda Rambis sat down for an “all-hands-on-deck meeting” following Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday night. The Lakers’ franchise is currently “paralyzed” by the news, a team source tells ESPN.
  • People close to Johnson say he was “deeply offended” by the constant accusations of tampering that followed him during his two years with the Lakers, writes ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. An ability to once again speak freely about players around the NBA was one factor Johnson cited when announcing his decision.
  • Almost in passing, Johnson mentioned during his presser on Tuesday that he “could have led the Knicks when (president) Steve Mills called,” but he considers himself a “Laker for life” (Twitter link via Knicks Film School).
  • There have been rumblings for months that ESPN was working on a story that focused on Johnson’s mistreatment of employees and would be “extremely unflattering” for Magic, says Sam Amick of The Athletic. However, Johnson denied that was a factor in his decision to step down. “I know that article is not an accurate article. I can tell you that now,” Johnson said, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. “… Now it’s some disgruntled, former Laker employees (talking to reporters). Yeah, they gonna say (what) they gonna say, ‘cause they wasn’t doing their jobs. So what is a person going to do? Point the finger bad about the person who fired them.”

Luke Walton notes/rumors:

  • Luke Walton‘s contract runs for two more years, though 2020/21 is a team option, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Johnson planned to fire Walton before deciding instead to step down, Wojnarowski adds.
  • Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports provides additional details on the Walton situation, writing that Magic was displeased with the head coach’s ability to make in-game adjustments and also felt that the coaching staff “lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development.”
  • Sources tell Haynes that Johnson wanted to replace Walton during the season, but Buss was reluctant to do so and didn’t give Magic the go-ahead to make a change until recently. Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, and Mark Jackson would have been primary targets to replace Walton if Johnson had made a change.
  • During the infamous early-season meeting in which Johnson questioned Walton’s coaching performance, Magic told the head coach to “shut the f— up” at one point when Walton tried to intervene, says Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Reactions:

  • Lakers players and coaches were caught off guard by the news of Johnson’s resignation, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Walton said he found out about thew news when everyone else did, while Sam Amick of The Athletic confirms that LeBron didn’t know it was coming either. “What shocked me is how everybody else is shocked,” Rajon Rondo said. “Because nobody knew.”
  • Buss and the Lakers are better off without Johnson, Chris Mannix argues in a column for SI.com.
  • In his column for The Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke says the manner in which Johnson left the Lakers was as shocking as anything he’s seen during his 25 years covering the team. Plaschke also makes the case that Magic was never all-in on the job.
  • While the Anthony Davis saga wasn’t the main reason for Johnson’s resignation, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry couldn’t help but notice that the two heads of basketball operations involved in those trade discussions are now unemployed, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com details. Gentry said he has never seen a situation as “toxic” as the Davis trade request during his time in the NBA. “Not this toxic, no,” Gentry said. “Not that affected two teams. And two guys. One lost his job, and the other one resigned from his job. So no, in 31 years I hadn’t had anything that would equal this kind of fallout. No, I haven’t.”

Next steps:

  • In a column for The Athletic, Bill Oram contends that Buss must look outside of her circle of friends to replace Johnson, focusing on the best and brightest NBA executives, since the Lakers’ job is a coveted one.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider-only link) writes that the Lakers need to find an executive who is willing to do the dirty work, appeals to star players, and who can set a positive culture. Pelton points to former Cavs GM David Griffin as one candidate who would fit the bill.
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37 thoughts on “Magic Johnson Fallout: News, Rumors, Reactions, More

  1. Jason Lancaster

    IS the Lakers GM/basketball ops job coveted?

    Owners are cheap, LeBron is a handful, most of the roster is mediocre, press is ridiculous, Western conference is stacked.

    It’s basically the Pelicans GM job, but way higher expectations. Can’t imagine it’s going to be easy to fill.

      • Jason Lancaster

        You should read more.

        Remember when the Lakers fired all the scouts and training staff during the last lockout? Do you realize the Lakers had the worst practice facility in the league for years?

        The Buss family doesn’t have any other income. They don’t spend nearly as much as the Warriors, Houston, or Clippers on all the extras…

    • yoyo137

      Kareem also played for the Bucks. Magic spent his whole career there. Kobe is really the greatest Laker ever though.

  2. captainsalty

    The Lakers hate in these comment sections has been unreal…we will be ok just like we always have…everybody acts like their teams haven’t had ups and downs…the Lakers have won 8 championships in my lifetime, I’m confident that things will get smoothed out soon

    • Tampadelphia Ed

      The Lakers have missed the playoffs for six years in a row which is more times than in their first 65 years. Keep on believing if you want but the league has changed. The Lakers are not the same as before. Things are in chaos and it’s not getting better soon. Maybe that’s why people’s comments are so negative.

      • macwebb

        The jury is still out…Will have to see what happens this summer and if they are able to improve the team…so funny, people are so readily available to criticize the Lakers and point to their demise…People forget, even when they lose they are the 2nd most valuable team in the league, top five home and road attendance, top five in team merchandise worldwide, etc…The hate is so apparent…teams complain when LA tries to do any major trade…Coach Popovich goes public stating he won’t trade with LA as well as complaining other teams (New Orleans) shouldn’t trade with them either…the hate against LA, is so bad that even the league actually intervened in the Chris Paul trade…PLEASE, name any other team that has this much animosity toward it…I will wait…the only reason for this is the SIXTEEN trophies sitting in the window at Staples Center and nothing less…Please take your hatred elsewhere…

  3. bowserhound

    Please stop saying that the answers to the Lakers issues are people whom the Cavs fired.

    • captainsalty

      Phil taking over as President yes…but I’d leave Luke as coach and have Phil hire someone as a GM on paper that can replace him when he’s ready to retire for good…he might already be done for good but I think he definitely has a pulse for the franchise and that Luke would be a little more receptive to his philosophy than Hornacek was in NY

  4. JonnyLucas

    I guess I’m a bit disappointed in Magic’s competitive drive to win and make a success of this. I expected more, that he would have brought some substance to this job.

  5. JonnyLucas

    ALSO, they should give LeBron a shot at being player/coach… like Russell did. I think that would make it easier for him to defer to another star like Davis or Leonard… to be a complement to their games instead of a competitor for touches. And… he might be good at it with the right assistants.

  6. OCTraveler

    I guess what frustrates/amazes me that we have a CEO level person (Johnson) who feels it necessary/beneficial to discuss leaving with an employee (James) but does not find it important to inform ownership (Buss). Inmates are running the hospital.

    • x%sure

      The article clearly says Johnson met with Buss Sunday, and with Pelinka, James & Paul Saturday– but made no discussion about leaving, with them or anyone else. This according to HR, Woj, Mannix, Shelburne, Johnson himself, everyone. I’m sure the subject has been brought up between Johnson and various people in the past but apparently not with this timetable or result.

      You mix sarcasm with sincerity and an obsession with James being in charge of everything. How about taking the time to read reliable articles for some grounding.

  7. bostonbob

    I love Magic, don’t leave. He has done so much these last few years with their championships. Oh wait, there hasn’t been any. Don’t break the drought and leave.

  8. mcmillankmm

    Why would he be offended by the tampering allegations? He clearly violated league rules when discussing Paul George, why would anyone think he wasn’t continuing with his tampering?

    • macwebb

      If there is proof of that…Magic did not do anything that any other GM or player hasn’t done to get players to sign with their team…The situation was exacerbated because Magic was with the Lakers…The Lakers are under more scrutiny than any other team because of their history and things just dropping into their laps…remember teams complaining about trades to the Lakers, so much that the league intervened and prevented the Chris Paul Trade…That is what this is all about…If it was you and you were being scrutinized like this, you might be offended too…

  9. halofanatic

    I’m glad Magic is gone. If my boss told me to shut the f— up in a meeting, I probably would’ve beat his ass and quit. Luke is a solid coach. Try to find another coach on the planet that could’ve taken this team to the playoffs with all these injuries.

  10. x%sure

    Johnson did succeed in his plan– (at least before injuries). However after putting the plan in motion through its key element (getting James), he isn’t really necessary anymore. The plan can continue to roll out with someone more strategically minded, or at least, more discreet.

    Making good with the Pels, and James’ recruiting, is the key now. James can do that while recruiting for his movie. (Maybe get Lady Benson a role?)

  11. Meadowlark

    NEWS FLASH … From the Oregon Shakespeare Company:
    OSF announced that Magic Johnson has agreed to play Lady Macbeth in the companies 2021-22 season. Jeanie Buss to play Macbeth.

  12. There is only one person to take over running the Lakers who can succeed, Jerry West!

    • macwebb

      Lakers had him, but he wasn’t treated in the best way when Phil Jackson was around…It will be a shame (but good for Jerry) if he builds the Clippers into a Championship team…

  13. Magic’s had an easy life, work-wise anyway. Successful fast track HOF level college and professional athlete, celebrity in his sport and beyond, and a business career that was very successful financially, without him needing to take more than ceremonial role in his best ventures. He knows the game as much as anyone, and had a great worth ethic as a player, and a good plan going in that he was more than able to implement, and was implementing.

    He did not do a poor job, until he resigned, at that point it became an incomplete (poor) job. Lots of people commenting on his PC didn’t really believe he was genuine. I largely did. He basically said he wasn’t up to some of the things inherent in being a GM (or equivalent top decision maker) for a modern NBA team, beyond picking the players. It’s a new era in sports management (which is now a profession, for some). Leading a FO of these guys requires grit and a thick skin, and some adherence to a collaborative decision making process, even if you’re the guy with the final say. Others in the FO, if they’re competent, are going to have other (differing) opinions and their job is to express them. Ownership too. Jeanie may be deferential to Magic on BB issues, as she said, but she’s been around the team and the league her entire life, and certainly has opinions, and is going to (and should) express them. Luke Walton even more so. He’s been a player and coach in the league for his entire adult life, and (like it or not) he’s “your” HC and (until you fire him) you have to at least listen to his opinions about the team, particularly when it involves coaching decisions. Magic seemed to regard his boss as his little sister, and Walton as a young intern who was privileged to be learning the game from him. Who knows what he thought of the rest of the FO; not such a great endorsement of Pelinka (his own hire) either (maybe he had opinions too).

    Chris Mullin resigning on the same day had a similar feel to it. It stopped being fun. People weren’t genuflecting any longer.

    • macwebb

      I agree with some of post regarding what took place as the GM. Some things however were going to be difficult considering all those involved in running the Lakers. For the most part, some of it was too many chefs in the kitchen that did not allow him to fully do the job he thought he could do…In the end, the Lakers will be fine and things will return to normal or so we hope…The things that I will adamantly disagree with is that you assume much when you say that Magic had an easy life…NEVER assume anyone has an easy life unless you have first hand knowledge of their experience…unless you have first hand knowledge you have no idea what his childhood was like, growing up or his family situation and the sacrifices they all made to get Magic to a place where he was sought after as a basketball player…Magic worked tirelessly honing his craft as a basketball player. Great players don’t just show up and play great simply on talent alone. It takes hours of training and preparation…If you have any doubts read some of the books about him. Also, as far as becoming a successful business person, please don’t assume that this was just handed to him. While building his business portfolio he suffered many setbacks and rejections from companies not willing to lend to him or were dubious of what business experience he had.

      • Maybe you didn’t read my post (I realize it was long, but still if you’re going to respond to it, read it). I limited what I said about his life being easy to his work. I specifically gave him credit for his great work ethic as a player. I never said anything was handed to him. The business ventures he had that were successful and built his strength were those that played to his celebrity strength. He had to learn (and did along the way) that he wasn’t a hand on CEO type. Being smart enough to play to your strength and away from your weaknesses isn’t having things handed to you. But no successful venture in his past replicated the skills needed to run the Lakers, in the modern environment. A modern GM is a CEO, a leader of a team, not a lone star surrounded by underlings. Magic’s background prepared him to be the second, but not the first. When he more understood the job was the first, he realized he wasn’t cut out for it. Don’t take my word for it, take his.

        • macwebb

          This is the sentence that raised my disagreement;

          a business career that was very successful financially, without him needing to take more than ceremonial role in his best ventures.

          Again, you are assuming that he did not struggle or have rejection in any of his business ventures and that he only had to be a ceremonial figure in his best ventures to be successful. How do you know that for certain? There is a lot of information available that shows how hard he worked. What mentors he studied with to gather business knowledge and experience. It did not come as easy as you imply. As I mentioned, he was turned down by several banks for financing to start his business. He ended up settling for less and proved to the banks that he could make a success of his ventures and even exceeded expectations through hard work. He also had a deep impact in customizing Starbucks in Black and Hispanic communities to fit that specific demographic which is in contrast to your belief that he was not hands on. He put the work in by working with Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz and keeping in touch personally with the communities he was serving. It went well beyond just being a ceremonial figure.

          I recall an article I read a few years ago (can’t find it now) but it went into detail about how hard Magic studied and prepared for being a businessman. It entailed much more than being a ceremonial figure. I did however find this article, maybe it will provide you with a bit more insight into how he did become successful…

          Hope this helps…

          link to medium.com

  14. Guest617

    the game’s better with magic around. there’s definitely something he’s not telling us – hopefully he returns in three yrs

  15. George

    So, what I see is Johnson doing his homework by meeting with the stakeholders, and not being able to see a way forward.

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