After many bleak years for the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the decade, the tides eventually started turning when Jeanie Buss hired Magic Johnson to begin her bombshell takeover in 2017.
Johnson replaced Jeanie’s brother, Jim, as the franchise’s president of basketball operations and was soon joined by the former agent of Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka, to fill the general manager position and form the new, rejuvenated front office.
Johnson’s vision for L.A. was centered on luring in an NBA superstar to Staples Center and, having set his eyes on LeBron James, he played a crucial role in signing the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat All-Star in 2018.
Fast forward two seasons, James, alongside Anthony Davis, led the Lakers to its first NBA title in 10 years. It came on the heels of a disappointing debut season with the organization. But as Johnson recalled on ESPN’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin,” he warned James and his agent, Rich Paul, that the team would need time to become competitive again:
“Well, it makes me feel great. First of all, you had to just explain to LeBron and Rich Paul — we were all sitting there — and I said, ‘Listen, we’re not going to be a dominant team your first year. Are you going to be OK with that? I think we can make the playoffs, but I don’t think we’re going to have a chance to win the championship.’ And he said, ‘I’m here for the long run.’ And so, to see it all work out for Jeanie Buss, for LeBron, and the whole organization and the fanbase, I was very happy.”
In hindsight, Johnson’s prognosis turned out to be extremely accurate. Luckily for James, he did not have to wait too long before he started reaping rewards for his commitment to the organization.
Buss and Pelinka have never failed to credit Johnson for his role in reviving the franchise — even despite the loud feud with the latter, which led to the legendary Laker’s resignation from his executive role in April 2019.
Pelinka and Johnson celebrated Lakers title together
Johnson fueled his fallout with Pelinka by calling him a backstabber live on ESPN after he had already vacated his front office post. But the two managed to bury the hatchet, repair their fractured relationship, and become friends again.
Johnson recently revealed he even celebrated L.A.’s title together with Pelinka. He said the pair, which laid the groundwork for this season’s success together, considered prolonging the festivities for another day.
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