Less than two hours before the Los Angeles Lakers tipped off their final game of the 2018-19 regular season, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson addressed the media to shockingly announce he was stepping down from his role.
More jarring was that Johnson delivered the news outside the Lakers locker room at Staples Center without having previously filled in owner Jeanie Buss or general manager Rob Pelinka. Johnson explained he would’ve had difficulty sharing his intention with Buss.
As the shock was still very much setting in, the Lakers thanked Johnson for his time leading the front office. “There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson,” the team’s statement began.
“We are deeply grateful to Magic 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. 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.”
After relying on Johnson as a trusted advisor, Buss hired him to head up Lakers basketball operations upon firing brother Jim and Mitch Kupchak in February 2017. Johnson hoped to speak with his former boss, but Buss did not attend Tuesday’s game.
She did, however, share her own thank you for Johnson.
Earvin, I loved working side by side with you. You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you 💜💛 https://t.co/ofmQl6BtBz
— Jeanie Buss (@JeanieBuss) April 10, 2019
What’s next for the Lakers is widely unsettled. The team presumably will hire a new president of basketball operations, which may not bode well for Pelinka. Meanwhile, there’s also the case of Luke Walton’s future as head coach.
Walton and the Lakers coaching staff reportedly were expecting to be fired, but Johnson’s sudden departure has cast doubt on that.