Magic Johnson has taken the basketball world by surprise in over the last few weeks. In a stunning and impromptu 40-minute news conference before the Los Angeles Lakers’ season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers, Magic Johnson announced he was stepping down from his role as the team’s president of basketball of operations. The decision comes a little more than two years after he took on the position in an effort to restore one of the league’s most storied franchises to championship contention.
Johnson made the announcement immediately after coach Luke Walton’s pregame comments, and added that he had not yet informed team owner Jeanie Buss of his intentions to step down.
“I like to be free,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a great life… what am I doing? I’ve got a beautiful life. I’m gonna go back to that beautiful life. I’m looking forward to it. Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, because I know she’s going to be sick. But I knew I couldn’t face her face-to-face and tell her.” referring to Buss. He later added that he would find her at Staples Center to address her in person.
But on Tuesday he said that he wanted to get back to being a mentor and a businessman, and that he had felt limited in his ability to do those things in his current role.
For example, he said he was upset that he could not attend Dwyane Wade’s final game for the Miami Heat on Tuesday night — or congratulate Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Twitter for finishing the regular season averaging another triple-double. (Johnson said the league would have considered it “tampering.”)
Johnson also said that he had received a phone call last week from the tennis star Serena Williams, asking if he would be an adviser to her.
“When Serena called me, wow, that’s who I am,” Johnson said. “I love helping people.”
Buss later commented on Magic stepping down “We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations,” the team said in a statement “and wish him, Cookie, Andre, EJ and Elisa all the best with their next steps. He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.”
Via Twitter, Buss said: “Earvin [Magic], I loved working side by side with you. You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”
Johnson, who will turn 60 in August, has many thriving business interests including ownership stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles FC.
Johnson’s sudden decision ends another chapter in the remarkable life of the star point guard from Lansing, Michigan, who won an NCAA championship at Michigan State before claiming five NBA titles and three league MVP awards during his 12-year playing career as the leader of the Showtime Lakers.
Johnson retired in 1991 after he tested positive for HIV, but later returned briefly to the Lakers as a player and a coach. Johnson says his current health is ideal, and he insists no health concerns were part of his decision to quit the job that seemed to be his ultimate destiny.