Magic Johnson had his fair share of slip-ups during his time as Lakers president of basketball operations. In the summer of 2018, Johnson oversaw a front office that assembled arguably the worst supporting cast LeBron James has ever had in the NBA, and the moves he made to try and rectify that during the season were as bad as the signings themselves.
Ivica Zubac for Mike Muscala? Really, Earvin?
Alas, for all of Johnson’s faults, he will always have one thing he can at least partially take credit for: The signing of James. On June 30, 2018, Johnson famously drove to James’ home in the Los Angeles area to meet with the then-three-time champion one-on-one, per James’ request. Following that meeting James, committed to signing a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers. It’s safe to say the meeting went well, and Lakers governor Jeanie Buss still credits Johnson for signing James.
It’s hard to say where James and Johnson’s relationship is now, after Johnson resigned from his position with the Lakers without speaking to James first — something that clearly upset James — but Johnson still has the ultimate respect for the player he signed.
Why? Because James delivered on a promise he made to Johnson that night of their free agency meeting (via Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times):
“What LeBron James said he was going to do when we were in his living room — myself, him and his agent Rich Paul — he said, ‘Earvin, I’m going to bring the Lakers back. I’m going to take us to the championship.’ Everything that he said he was going to do, he’s done just that. It was just great to know he was the centerpiece to bring us back.”
The irony in that quote is that an argument can be made that James’ ability to carry the Lakers to a championship was a direct result of Johnson stepping down, but I digress — that’s all in the past now. Jame kept his promise, and will likely have his jersey hung from the rafters at Staples Center alongside Johnson in the not-too-distant future.
The fallout between James and Johnson will be part of the James’ story with the Lakers, but because James was able to bring Los Angeles another championship, it won’t be the story. That’s worth celebrating.