History is written by the victors, and now that Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are the ones who actually landed LeBron James, they get to take their victory lap and tell the stories they want, however they prefer them told. Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have no choice but to kind of accept this, no matter how the shots land.
While speaking to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN about the Lakers’ successful summer this year, Jeanie didn’t hold anything back about how she felt about the last few summers:
“Magic and Rob, they really prepared and did their homework, where I think maybe the previous regime was a little bit more roll the dice and then react,” she said. “We had our best-case scenario, but there was a plan B and a plan C and a plan D and E.
”Nothing was really up to chance other than the player’s decision. It’s up to [James] to decide, but we’d done everything that we could.”
Jeanie made it clear she hasn’t always thought that the Lakers’ prior front office had done everything they could in the same way:
”We’d gone into a free-agency period with no coach,” she said. “How are you going to convince somebody to come if you don’t know who the coach is going to be? And they [the previous regime] were like, ‘Well, they’ll have feedback into who the coach would be.’
”I’m like, ‘What if you can’t get the one that they want?’ I didn’t understand or like that process.”
Like I said, this is just kind of how this works. LeBron is a Laker and those directly responsible will garner the vast majority of the credit when, frankly, Mitch and Jim also deserve praise for kickstarting this rebuild.
The previous regime took a bare cupboard of assets (really only the lottery pick that would become Julius Randle) and turned that into Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. (who were pivotal in creating cap space to land LeBron), D’Angelo Russell, Ivica Zubac and other assets that led in part to being able to draft guys like Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Hell, the scouting department that has hit at an alarming rate later in the draft all worked for Kupchak and Jim.
It’s also worth noting that James, by several accounts, had his decision made up quite a bit in advance and may simply have preferred to come to the Lakers no matter the circumstances. Though that stuff is impossible to know definitively.
All that matters is that Magic and Pelinka sealed the deal. They landed the biggest fish since Shaquille O’Neal. Time will remember them for that as their predecessors potentially go largely forgotten, with a little help from those responsible for their departures.