When the Los Angeles Lakers introduced 2018 NBA Draft picks Moritz Wagner and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the conversation invariably shifted to free agency. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson was asked if he felt any pressure.
After all, Johnson had voiced confidence he would lead the franchise back to its former glory. “You know how many Finals I’ve been in?” Johnson asked, almost incredulously. “You think I’m worried about this? I’ve played against Larry Bird in the Finals. Come on, now. I’ve been in nine Finals. I’ve been in an NCAA championship.
“I’m Magic Johnson. I’m still the same dude. I’m not going to change. There’s no pressure on me.” Johnson went on to add that he would re-sign if he failed to deliver for the Lakers in 2018 or 2019 free agency.
Less than one week later, Johnson and the Lakers got their guy. No, not Paul George, who was long considered a foregone conclusion to return to Southern California. But instead the biggest fish available, LeBron James.
And according to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, it was Johnson visiting with James shortly after free agency began that locked in a commitment:
The meeting that sealed this deal included LeBron, his @KlutchSports agent, Rich Paul, & Magic Johnson at one of LeBron's LA homes last night for several hours, as @ramonashelburne noted. No one else but those three, and now he's about to don the purple and gold.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 2, 2018
With James arriving in Los Angeles last Friday, it was presumed the Lakers would secure a meeting with the 14-time All-Star. However, word never surfaced that it became a reality. In fact, it was reported that Johnson and James did not have dinner.
Meanwhile, reports indicated James spoke with Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman and on Sunday, his representatives took a meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers. In the end, it was Johnson, and James’ respect and admiration for him that proved to be the difference for the Lakers.
Which is what controlling owner Jeanie Buss and the fanbase hoped for when he was named head of the front office.
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