Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and former Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird will both receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 NBA Awards. The event is being held in Los Angeles and will be televised live by TNT on Monday, June 24 at 6 p.m. PT.
This year’s NBA Awards will include the exclusive unveiling of the NBA MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Rookie of the Year, among other awards. Good Morning America host Robin Roberts will also be honored as this year’s recipient of the Sager Strong Award.
Bill Russell (2017) and Oscar Robertson (2018) were previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Johnson and Bird are being recognized for combining to help catapult the league and grow its popularity with their Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
Johnson helped lead the Lakers to a championship in his rookie season, and went on to claim four more titles with the team. He additionally was a three-time MVP, won three Finals MVP Awards and was a 12-time All-Star, among other accolades and accomplishments.
Johnson retired after an attempted comeback during the 1995-96 NBA season and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Johnson’s post-playing career came with an abundance of business success but a rocky tenure as Lakers president of basketball operations.
His promotion from advisor to head of the Lakers front office was celebrated in 2017, and two years later his abrupt departure threw the franchise into a bit of a tailspin. Johnson announced his resignation during an impromptu press conference prior to the Lakers’ final regular-season game.
It came without prior notice given to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka or any other member in the front office. It was widely assumed Johnson stepped down in response to possible conflict over former head coach Luke Walton’s job status.
However, during his 45-minute address, Johnson alluded to greater issues. “What I didn’t like is the backstabbing and the whispering,” he said. “I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.”
Johnson declined to provide specifics, but took a broad view, saying, “Well, you know, there’s a lot of that going on in this whole world of professional basketball. There’s a lot of that that goes on, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I’m not talking about our organization, I’m talking about overall.”
Johnson added he received permission from Buss to dismiss Walton as the team’s coach. While Johnson’s departure was controversial, he and Buss have reportedly remained in contact. It’s believed Johnson played a role in the Lakers’ coaching search that took several twists before the hiring of Frank Vogel.