Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson stole the show at the 13th annual Lakers All-Access event Sunday night, where he divested himself from the pre-planned Q&A session and instead started taking questions (and selfies) with the purple and gold crowd.
It was completely indicative of his persona – jubilant, commanding, entertaining and always in control. It wasn’t planned, but when Magic leads, you follow.
That’s exactly what Magic hopes the Lakers young star, D’Angelo Russell, will quickly learn how to do, lead, even if it is only his second year in the NBA, and even if he is only 21 years old.
“When I came in (to the league), it was really funny, we had our first game in San Diego, and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) hits a shot,” Magic smiled in front of a few hundred fans at Staples Center. “I mean, three seconds to go, we’re down one, we throw it to him at the free throw line, he shoots the hook, it goes in at the buzzer, we win. I’m 19 years old. I’m running real fast, I jump in his arms and I’m choking him. So, I’m holding him, and he waits till we get into the locker room.
He says, ‘Rookie come here, don’t do that ever again, we have 81 more games.’
I turned to him and I said, ‘Kareem, if you shoot a shot like that 81 more times, I’m going to jump in your arms, 81 more times.’ I said ‘Hey, this is how I play, I’m passionate, I love the game,’ and so I think that broke the ice between us. Sometimes when guys are young, veterans sometimes think you’re going to be passive and I wasn’t a passive guy, in terms of just…I was a leader, I’ve been a leader I understood how to lead even when I was young as a rookie.”
It was a story told before, but this time D’Angelo Russell was the punchline.
“Sometimes when everybody is young, nobody wants to hold guys accountable, because they want to be their friend,” Magic said.
“What I want D’Angelo to do, is take this team in his hands, no matter his age, and just lead, and guys will appreciate that.”