Though he blamed the team’s general manager for ‘talking behind his back’ and the organization’s dysfunction for why he stepped down as president, Magic Johnson says he’s still a Los Angeles Laker for life.
“I’ve already touched on it, there really isn’t anything left to say other than I will be a Laker forever,” Magic Johnson, 59, told HollywoodLife when asked where he stood with the Los Angeles Lakers after blaming the team’s GM Rob Pelinka of “backstabbing” him. Magic — who was attending the 10th Annual ‘Big Fighters, Big Cause’ Charity Boxing Night, benefiting the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation – said that even after all the alleged ugliness between him and the organization, he still bleeds yellow and purple. “I support Jeanie [Buss, the Lakers’ owner] and new coach Frank Vogel and the direction they are taking the team. We just have to be better, and I am sure we will be, and so that is it. There is nothing else to say about it other than I am a Laker forever and I wan the best for the Lakers.”
Magic’s reaffirmation of Laker loyalty comes after his scoring May 20 appearance on First Take in which he said he was tired of the “backstabbing” and “the whispering” that was going on behind his back during his tenure as Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations. “I start hearing, ‘Magic, you are not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office,'” said Magic. “People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying things, Rob Pelinka, and I didn’t like those things being said behind my back, that I wasn’t in the office enough. So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the Lakers office anymore.”
“[Magic] is an unbelievable person to work with, he fills the room with joy and vision,” Rob Pelinka said, per Sports Illustrated, after Magic’s First Take appearance. “Truly, it’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes there’s a misperception… I have talked to him several times since he decided to walk away, we’ve had many joy-filled conversations. … So these things are surprising to hear and disheartening, but I look forward to the opportunity to talk with him and sit down with him and work with him just like any relationship.”
Ultimately, it was this — along with Lakers’ chief operating officer Tim Harris getting involved and apparently derailing Magic’s attempt to fire then-head coach Luke Walton – made Magic throw in the town. He announced his resignation during an April 9 press conference. He didn’t cite an exact reason as to why he was stepping down, though he did indicate he was dissatisfied with the job’s restrictions.
The move blindsided many – including LeBron James, a source EXCLUSIVELY told HollywoodLife that “he wasn’t happy at all” with the announcement. Magic, during First Take, said he “love(s) LeBron, I love his family. I made that decision based on me and my own happiness. I could have done it a different way – yes, he’s right – but I did it my way. And that that doesn’t take anything away from our relationship or how I feel about LeBron.”