The Los Angeles Lakers franchise, the Buss family, and Magic Johnson share a long and convoluted history dating back to 1979 when L.A. drafted the point guard with the first overall pick.
Johnson spent his entire NBA career with the Lakers, winning five titles and becoming the face of the organization’s fabled Showtime era. He then took charge of L.A.’s front office as the president of basketball operations in 2017, joined by Kobe Bryant’s former agent Rob Pelinka, who took the general manager position.
Magic’s presidency brought LeBron James to Staples Center in 2018 and laid foundations for the Anthony Davis trade the following year. But before Davis signed with L.A., Johnson suddenly announced his departure from the Lakers’ front office without notifying Pelinka and governor Jeanie Buss prior to his impromptu press conference in April 2019.
Buss dealt with the unexpected crisis with composure and maturity, perhaps trying to preserve her long-lasting friendship with Magic. After all, the Lakers’ president had had enough time to familiarize herself with Johnson’s unpredictability.
Recently, Buss told a story on the “Out Of Office With Rich Kleiman” podcast about her first meeting with the would-be Hall-of-Famer which, she said, left her speechless:
“So [Magic] got on a plane, flew out to Los Angeles. And Bill Sharman, our general manager, brought him over. And when the doorbell rang, my dad said, “You know what? I’m not ready yet. I got to do a couple things upstairs. Will you bring them in the house, offer them something to drink? And I’ll be down in a few minutes, so make conversation.’ So I opened the door, and it was this smile that it was blinding. And there were sparkles coming off his teeth. As soon as you met him, you’re just floored by who he is. So I bring them in, we’re having small talk, and he said, ‘You know, I’m really excited that I was drafted by the Lakers, but I’m only going to stay here for three years because I want to go back home and play for my hometown team in Detroit.’ And I went, ‘Excuse me.’ And I said, “I need to go. I’ll be right back.’ So I ran upstairs, and I’m like, ‘Dad, you’re not going to believe what he said. He said he’s only going to stay for three years. He wants to go back home and play in Detroit.” And my dad’s like, “Jeanie, calm down.” He goes, ‘As soon as he puts on a Laker uniform and walks out on that crowd and sees that crowd and hears the cheers for him…he’s never going to leave.’ And he’s never left. My dad, he knew. He knew that he would fall in love with L.A. just as he had fallen in love with L.A. So they had such a special relationship, and that led to a lot of success. The fact that my dad was a rookie owner and he was a rookie and we won a championship that first year is really, truly remarkable.”
Buss and Johnson remain good friends with the five-time NBA champion calling his former boss “one of the best owners in all of sports” earlier this year.
Buss opens up about Kobe Bryant’s emotional farewell tour
Spending the majority of her life working for the Lakers, Buss developed a close relationship with many of the franchise’s stars. Among them, the late Kobe Bryant, whose retirement and the accompanying farewell tour makes L.A.’s governor teary-eyed to this day.
Buss revealed that despite the sadness surrounding Bryant’s departure, it allowed her to develop an intimate bond with the franchise’s icon. She was one of the very few people the legendary forward told about his decision to quit before he announced it with the “Dear Basketball” poem, Buss revealed.
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