When team governor Jeanie Buss delivered her speech before the Lakers received their championship rings on Tuesday night, she thanked every single player that played for the team over the course of the year, whether they made it to the end of the season or not. Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, Troy Daniels, Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and DeMarcus Cousins were all recognized for their contributions.
One person who didn’t get a thank you by name? Magic Johnson, the former president of basketball operations for the team who resigned the season before the Lakers won the championship, but whom Buss has credited for recruiting LeBron James and overhauling the culture of the team, and who still talks to his replacement, Rob Pelinka, about the state of the roster he helped build.
However, Buss not mentioning Johnson doesn’t mean his contributions weren’t appreciated, as he tweeted that the Lakers had sent him and his wife each rings on Saturday morning.
Cookie and I are so blessed to receive our championship rings! Thank you to Laker owner @JeanieBuss, the Laker players and especially @KingJames because he told me he was going to bring a championship to Laker Nation. This is my 11th NBA Championship ring! pic.twitter.com/R5n7foBPuR— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) December 26, 2020
Johnson isn’t the only one to get his ring in the mail. Of the players Buss mentioned, Waiters and Smith have posted on Instagram about getting rings of their own.
The reason the Lakers didn’t wait for Smith or Waiters to play them to get their rings? Likely that they aren’t currently on NBA rosters, although it seems relatively safe to guess that the Lakers asked them if they wanted their rings in the mail or if they wanted to wait. And of the Lakers that Buss thanked that aren’t on their roster anymore, the only other player who is currently unsigned is Troy Daniels, who has yet to post about his ring one way or another, but will presumably receive one if he wants it.
Also up in the air is Miami Heat guard Avery Bradley, who Buss thanked for his time with the Lakers last season but has previously said he isn’t sure if he’d take a ring or not after not going to the bubble, even though Pelinka called him the night the Lakers won to offer him one. Danny Green (Sixers), Rajon Rondo (Hawks), Dwight Howard (Sixers), JaVale McGee (Cavaliers) and DeMarcus Cousins (Rockets) are all currently on NBA teams, and will presumably get their rings when they play the Lakers this season.
But regardless of who accepts the rings or not, Buss thanking all these players in her speech and sending out rings even to Johnson — who does not work for the team anymore — is incredibly classy, and just another reminder of why she is so well-regarded around the NBA community. If you’re in the orbit of a championship team, you’re part of the journey, whether you make it to the end of not. Good on the Lakers for recognizing that, and acting accordingly.