Magic Johnson is free again after a shocking announcement that he is resigning from his role as President of Basketball Operations.
“I’m a free bird, and I can’t be handcuffed,” he said per ESPN. “This is a good day.”
Johnson said he was happier when he wasn’t president of the Lakers. He wants to return to doing community work and having fun.
“I knew if I stayed in this role, I’m giving up a lot of me,” Johnson said per The Athletic’s Bill Oram.
The Lakers legend said he always wanted to be a businessman after playing and he was doing fine at that before and will after.
Johnson told members of the media he would not be back next year during an impromptu press conference he called ahead of L.A.’s final game of the 2018-19 season. He said he did not tell Lakers president Jeanie Buss, General Manager Rob Pelinka or star LeBron James before breaking the news.
“I knew I couldn’t be face-to-face and tell her [Jeanie Buss],” Johnson said about not telling his boss beforehand, per multiple reports. “I couldn’t stand to tell her.”
Johnson did not say if Walton or Pelinka should keep their jobs. He said he will leave that up to Jeanie. Johnson did say he did not want to put himself in that situation between Luke and Jeanie, despite denying the decision had anything to do with Luke.
Magic added to his sentiments about the organization per USA Today:
“It’s hard when you love an organization the way I love this organization. It’s hard when you love a person like I love Jeanie. I don’t want to hurt her. And I love Luke.”
The 59-year-old Hall of Fame player also said he and Pelinka worked well together despite getting to know each other on the fly.
Among the reasons for Johnson leaving the position, he talked about having more fun as an ambassador for basketball and outside, big-brother figure for the Lakers organization.
Johnson cited instances where comments on Giannis Antetokounmpo and calls with Ben Simmons got him in trouble despite his good intentions. He also cited missing Dwayne Wade’s final game, not congratulating Russell Westbrook on his 20-20-20 game and potential mentoring Serena Williams as things he could not do in his current role, per Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.
Previously, ESPN reported that Johnson hadn’t talked to Lakers head coach Luke Walton in weeks. Adrian Wojnarowski also said Johnson’s hours with the Lakers were limited due to his various other commitments.
Now, it is unlcear if the Lakers will still fire Luke Walton and the coaching staff. Woj said the group expected to get fire after the game but that seems to be up in the air after Magic leaving.
Johnson did say he wanted to be apart of the Lakers free agency pitch, Tania Ganguli from the L.A. Times. He also maintained that the organization is doing fine, is in a good position and if they weren’t he wouldn’t make this decision, per Oram.
Magic referred to the decision as a monkey off his back, per multiple reports. However, he also said multiple times he was worried about his relationship with Jeanie. He said she would be caught off guard with this announcement per Oram.
Johnson would’ve entered his third season at the helm of President, which he reminded everyone during the presser he promised fans three seasons. The Lakers hired him in 2017 after replacing Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss in the front office.
L.A. went 72-91 in Johnson’s two full seasons as President of Basketball Operations.