One of the major criticisms of Magic Johnson’s resignation was that he didn’t notify anyone on the Lakers before his impromptu press conference. There was a belief that Magic at least owed a heads up to Jeanie Buss and to LeBron James, who signed his contract to play in Los Angeles after taking a meeting with the former Laker great.
Clearly James shared that belief, as he aired out his grievances with Johnson on his HBO talk show, “The Shop,” earlier this month:
“Between my stretching sessions, my right hand comes up to me and say, ‘Magic just stepped down.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, get the f--- out of my face, you’re bulls----ng me.’ I check my phone, I look at it, the s--t happened. Personally, for me, I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization after having a conversation with Magic, so it was just weird for him to just be like ‘Nah, I’m out of here,’ and not even have, like: ‘Hey, Bron . . . kiss my a--. I’m out of here.’ It wasn’t even that.”
Johnson got the opportunity to defend himself and address why he didn’t feel it was necessary to reach out to James ahead of time on ESPN’s “First Take” earlier this week:
”I respect LeBron for what he just said, and I love LeBron, I love his family and what he’s done for the Laker organization. What he did for me as the president of the Laker organization. But sometimes as a man, you have to make decisions based on your well-being. And I made that decision based on me and my own happiness.
So, I could have done it a different way, yes, he’s right, but I did it my way. And that doesn’t take anything away from our relationship, or how I feel about LeBron, but sometimes as a man or a woman, you’ve got to make decisions based on your own happiness. Sometimes you’ve got to just go out and do your thing, and that’s what I did.”
Although Johnson is within his rights to make his own decisions, he was the leader of the Lakers front office. That means he held a responsibility to the rest of the franchise, especially to the team’s best player.
When he was asked if he regretted anything about how he resigned, Johnson said:
”No, no, no. I’m not a regretful guy... I’m not a regretful person. I stick to my guns. Look, this was not just I woke up and said ‘oh I’m gonna leave the Lakers.’ This was building up.”
It is wholly unsurprising that Johnson takes no issue with what transpired. However, the fact that Johnson was building towards this decision makes it even more unforgivable that he sprung it on the rest of the franchise. It wasn’t that he decided upon arriving to Staples Center that he was going to hold a press conference — he could have easily held a quick locker room meeting before telling the rest of the world.
Johnson said earlier that he didn’t tell Jeanie Buss he was resigning because he couldn’t bear to look her in the face and potentially change his mind. That excuse doesn’t track with LeBron James. James has idolized Magic throughout his life, both as a player and as a business man, and he committed to spend at least three years of his career in Los Angeles partly on the basis of having a relationship with Magic Johnson.
As two individuals who entered a partnership, they owed each other a certain level of respect and transparency, and Magic violated that. It’s too bad he still doesn’t realize his mistake.