Magic Johnson Steps Down As Lakers’ President Of Basketball Ops

Holding an impromptu press conference on Tuesday evening, Magic Johnson announced that he has stepped down as the Lakers‘ president of basketball operations (Twitter link via Bill Oram of The Athletic).

According to Johnson, he hadn’t informed Lakers owner Jeanie Buss of his decision before publicly announcing his decision. Referring to Buss as a sister, Johnson said he “had more fun” when he was able to be “the big brother and the ambassador” rather than the Lakers’ ultimate decision-maker (Twitter link via Oram).

“Somebody’s going to have to tell my boss because I knew I couldn’t be face-to-face and tell her,” Johnson said, per Oram. “… I couldn’t stand to tell her.” 

The shocking announcement comes on the heels of a report from Oram which suggested that Johnson has been viewed as an “absentee executive.” According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Johnson never fully committed to the job and had limited office hours during his tenure. He was traveling and away from the team frequently, and didn’t do much scouting, per Woj.

Speaking to reporters tonight, Johnson said that his position with the Lakers hasn’t allowed him to be a statesman for the NBA, a role he enjoys and one he’s looking forward to resuming (Twitter link via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com).

Johnson also expressed frustration with the NBA’s tampering rules and repeatedly said that he was happier before being hired by the assuming the role of Lakers head of basketball operations, adding that it’s a “monkey off [his] back” to step away from the position (Twitter links via Oram and Brad Turner of The L.A. Times).

“I’m a free bird and I’ve been handcuffed, and I don’t enjoy that,” Johnson said (Twitter link via Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet). Magic did add that he’d be interested in consulting for the Lakers on an as-needed basis.

Johnson’s surprise resignation raises many more questions about the Lakers’ upcoming offseason. There was a widespread belief that head coach Luke Walton would be let go at season’s end, and while Johnson said tonight that his decision wasn’t about Walton, he also acknowledged that it made him uncomfortable to be in a position to be in a position between Buss and Walton, who are close (Twitter link via Oram).

“[Buss] told me yesterday you have the power [to make the decision on Walton],” Johnson said tonight, according to Oram (Twitter link). “… I didn’t want to put her or myself in that situation.”

With Johnson no longer around to make that decision, it’s not clear if Walton is now in position to keep his job or if Magic’s replacement would still want to bring in his own head coach. The Lakers’ coaching staff had believed for months that they’d be fired at the end of the season, Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter).

The Lakers are also facing a big summer in terms of roster decisions, with the team having targeted the 2019 offseason as the time to add a second star to complement LeBron James. Rob Pelinka remains in the role of GM for now, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be running the show during the coming months, or if the Lakers will look to hire a new decision-maker.

Asked for his opinion tonight on whether Pelinka and Walton should keep their jobs, Johnson declined comment, saying that’s a decision for Buss to make (Twitter link via McMenamin).

During his two-plus years as the Lakers’ president of basketball ops, Johnson made a handful of strong moves, including drafting players like Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Thomas Bryant — and, of course, signing LeBron. However, the team also made several questionable roster decisions, moving Lou Williams, D’Angelo Russell, and Ivica Zubac in a series of trades, and parting ways with players like Julius Randle, Brook Lopez, and Bryant.

Widely expected to be a playoff team in 2018/19, the Lakers failed to meet expectations and will finish well below .500, 10th in the Western Conference. While injuries were a factor, many of the club’s 2018 free agent additions – including Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson – weren’t ideal fits, and the midseason Anthony Davis saga had a noticeable effect on the young players involved in trade rumors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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74 thoughts on “Magic Johnson Steps Down As Lakers’ President Of Basketball Ops

    • dimitrios in la

      Well depends on what you mean. He’s been really quite awful at this job actually.

      • Guest617

        no one wants to join lebron and he knows he can’t do anything about it

        • SuperSinker

          That whole Paul George and Kawhi failures were some weird episodes as well

    • xabial

      Magic breathed some life into the team.

      Yes, even in decline, LeBron signing 3 yrs was a coup, wouldnt have gotten him if Jim Buss, still running show
      You all forget the Deng, Mozcov albatrosses.

      • whodatcoon

        Jim Buss was terrible, but that doesn’t make Magic good or even decent. Magic wasn’t committed according to the article and his decision making was very sub par.

  1. kenleyfornia2

    Luke may actually have won the battle with Magic. Who would have thought

    • dimitrios in la

      Well, I’m a bit relieved because I always felt Magic should go first as he’s vastly more responsible for the team’s struggles.

  2. OCTraveler

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. No start rebuilding your image.

  3. ChiSoxCity

    He should step down after the Anthony Davis debacle. And LeBrat, ruiner of team chemistry that he is, should retire.

    • whodatcoon

      What core? Magic traded your best player for cap space he didn’t end up needing. Brandon is going to be great and seems unhappy. Ball is literally the train wreck we expected, actually a tlaneted kid but he is always injured and has no shot. I like Kuz, that’s the best player on that team, hart is a after thought.

      • SuperSinker

        I agree with most of what you wrote but I think Hart is a pretty exciting young player in today’s game. I think every team in the league would want someone who can shoot that well

    • stevep-4

      I actually thought the same thing. Buss might want someone she trusts at this point, and Walton obviously has an existing relationship with Phil. But then I remembered “Lebron’s posse” and realized no way in hell.

      • Djones246890

        If they were smart, they would get rid of LeBron. He is an absolute cancer that hijacks organizations and holds them hostage.

        He’s an aging veteran whose skills have already diminished, and they will drastically keep diminishing every single year.

        • whodatcoon

          They could actually trade LeBron at this point without looking as bad. Magic signed him Magic is gone, so it wouldn’t look nearly as dishonest now.

            • Thronson5

              He doesn’t have a no trade clause so he can’t veto a trade. Unless I’m wrong but I believe this was mentioned a few weeks ago when Buss asked Rob and Magic about the possibility of trading him. Like I said, I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a no trade clause. He may try to fight it and force their hand to trade him where he wants or retire but I don’t think ultimately has any say so.

  4. raisethejollyroger
    raisethejollyroger

    Yes! It never fit Magic! Phil will be back in some capacity. Put Lefraud under subjection and tell him to play and shut the f up. The executives will decide what players they pick up and who coaches them

    • JonnyLucas

      I think you’re misreading this situation. There is nothing good about uncertainty.

  5. Thronson5

    Unbelievable. But at the same time I don’t blame him. What a shame. All of this has become a joke. As a Lakers fan for over 30 years I’m just mind blown and feel a bit of disgrace is the word I guess you can say or embarrassment might be better. Just a joke.

  6. stretch123

    Pelinka needs to go too. Trade LeBron for young players and picks, hire Mark Jackson as head coach and bring in a long time GM as President of Ops and a Asst GM as GM. Sometimes it’s better to not hire a big name.

    • whodatcoon

      Yeah because the last player legent didn’t just resign in disgrace after less than two years.

  7. Spike4christ

    The Lakers began to suck as soon as the let Mr. NBA Jerry West go. He was a great player but he may have eclipsed it in Managment.

  8. stevep-4

    I see this as Magic flipping the bird to Lebron, actually. We will see how much of a leader the self appointed GOAT is now.

    • x%sure

      After all, prioritizing the opportunity to flip a bird to a lower level employee is how people make major career decisions.

    • LordBanana

      Why? Magic didn’t do anything in LA except be lucky enough LeBron wanted to sign there.

  9. david722

    What an f’n circus. Hope Dr. Jerry is not looking on what an embarrassment. Sell the team!

  10. miguel trucha

    2-ish seasons for Magic to quit is pretty good, relatively speaking. Much better than when he quit coaching after 16 games.

  11. omar jimenez

    I grew up a fan of Magic and love his effort to help others. As a coach and as a President he fell short. Him being back to being an ambassador and businessman is his strong suit. All power to him for trying and stepping down. That’s gotta tough for a guy of his stature but he’ll be back to enjoying life and winning in no time.

  12. Z-A

    Lol… Did a better job than Phil in NY, he landed LeBron. Nothing else to show for it, but landed LeBron.

  13. Guest617

    lakers rebuild was doing fine until this year when a super hero arrived and decided to take over all business decisions

  14. driftcat28

    Lmao awkward. I wonder what LeBron thinks of all this, does he agree that Magic should’ve bee gone? How much of a role did Magic playing in landing LeBron? Does he sign in LA if he knew Magic would just resign?

    Also, glad Magic won’t be tampering any longer, it seemed like he would tamper with every star player. Then he acts like there’s nothing wrong with it

    • LordBanana

      Magic had nothing to do with LeBron signing in LA. Magic didn’t do anything except be a face.

  15. driftcat28

    One last note – the way Magic resigned is very cowardly. Couldn’t even tell Buss himself. The Lakers are better off

    • Vince

      Cowardly? Driftcat28 should release his full name and address before accuses another person of being a coward.

  16. easymoney

    mark Jackson would be and excellent coach. as for gm maybe jeanie can pry the celtics gm away he has done a excellent job.

  17. jorge78

    Ah, go open some movie theatres…..
    Guy can’t make a decision except to sign autographs…..

  18. DougieJones

    He basically said he is quitting because he wasn’t having fun. What an embarrassment.

  19. KC2112

    I like Magic always have since the Lakers drafted him. He made a big mistake shortly after he was hired by unfortunately letting his ego get in the way when he told Jerry West thanks but no thanks when Jerry wanted to be part of helping the Lakers rebuild. And to add insult to injury so him go across the locker to the Clippers. Who better to have helping you than the best executive in NBA history! Next bad move was hiring Pelinka as the GM should have hired some one with experience. Hope Of links is let go of given another job within the organization. Really hope Luke gets another chance under the new President and GM, I believe there are very few coaches who could have done better under the circumstances for this year. If he gets to stay think he should get some experienced coaches for assistants. I would look to Michael Cooper for my defensive coach. Will continue to be an interesting summer with the changes.

  20. Thronson5

    I have a feeling the Lakers will either do whatever they can to bring West back to the Lakers or hire Griffin who’s worked with LeBron and actually makes a lot of sense. I also can see Phil coming in because Buss actually doesn’t seem to fond of LeBron after this season so she wouldn’t care if LeBron likes it or not and wouldn’t be shocked if they then traded him since he doesn’t have a no trade in his contract. But that all seems far fetched even though I can see it happening, just don’t think it will. I think West or Griffin make most sense. I think Magic wanted Walton and Palinka gone and their was resistance from Buss and there was just too much drama for him too handle plus he couldn’t be himself. But overall I think this was such a chicken s*** thing to do by quitting without telling anyone first. The fact he laughed about it just irritated me. I don’t really care what the excuse is, it’s not the professional thing to do. Be a man and do it the right way. But what’s done is done I guess. I actually think this will be good for them. I think they can get someone qualified for the position now and I think they might as well start all over again. Hire a new president like Griffin or West and hire a new gym and all new coaching staff. I’d actually like to see Mark Jackson get the job. I know some thing he isn’t a good coach but I disagree.

  21. Vince

    Keep Luke Walton. Dump Lebron. Start an actual rebuild. Jerry West has an eye for talent.

  22. Equinsu Ocha

    I love Magic, but thank God he’s gone. He was ruining that team. I dont buy into all this Lebron runs teams stuff. next year the Lebron hate will die down.

  23. Vince

    I guess the rumors that the Lakers are definite landing place for Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant can officially be put to rest. Of course they never had any life.

  24. madmanTX

    Wait, I thought the Lakers already won the Championship this year when they signed LeBron?

  25. Z-A

    Listening to him talk in that interview, you get it. He wants to be a guy in the limelight involved with basketball in general, but not deal with the nasty side. Doesn’t have to lie to players daily, lie to fans, lie to the media. Probably ate away at him. So they have a GM, are they firing Pelinka?

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