Magic Johnson has nothing to do with the Lakers.
Well, not exactly, he will forever be a Laker in everyone’s minds, forever wearing the “Forum blue and gold” in the hearts of Lakers fans. But now he has no actual ties to the team
“After heavy deliberation and a weighing heart, I have decided to sell my share of the Lakers to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong…” Johnson said in a press release on the Lakers Web site. “I am truly humbled to have been a Lakers player for 13 years and an owner for over 10 years. I thank Dr. Buss from the deepest part of my heart and soul for allowing me such an incredible opportunity. I will continue to work alongside Dr. Buss, Jeanie Buss and Mitch Kupchak in their efforts to continually build and maintain the best NBA franchise in the league. This was a bittersweet business decision made on behalf of my family and myself, and I want to assure all the wonderful and loyal Lakers fans that my decision will in no way affect my dedication and support for the Los Angeles Lakers. I am and will always be a Laker for life.”
“The sale of Earvin’s share of the team is a business decision which will not change our relationship,” Lakers owner Jerry Buss said in the same release. “Our friendship goes well beyond business. Patrick is a long-time and passionate Lakers fan and we are delighted to have him as a partner.”
Magic Johnson wants a larger role in team ownership and talked about that back in August. He wants more of a Michael Jordan role in Charlotte, as one of or the main face of franchise ownership. That was never going to happen with the Lakers, where the Buss family has no plans to sell. Magic’s name came up on the periphery of the sales of the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons (and that Pistons sale has yet to go through and Magic is from Michigan and… we’re just speculating here).
But you cannot own parts of two NBA franchises, so Magic had to get out of the Lakers before he could be serious elsewhere.
It makes sense why he did it, but still it feels unsettling and wrong. Magic Johnson is as much a Laker as anyone, and if you doubt that watch one night here in Los Angeles at how many people get their picture taken with his statue out in front of Staples Center. He is a Laker icon. A Los Angeles icon for his work with HIV/AIDS and off the field bringing business to the inner-city.
This has happened other places — Larry Bird may run the Pacers but he is forever a Celtic. The same is true here. Still feels odd.
As for the new Lakers owner, Dr. Soon-Shiong, we don’t know much — except that he is the richest man in Los Angeles, worth an estimated $7.1 billion. How did he get so rich? The official release from the Lakers has some of the details, but suffice to say he is just smarter than you and me.
Dr. Soon-Shiong, a Lakers season seat holder for more than 25 years, is Chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation, Chairman and CEO of All About Advanced Health and founder of the National Coalition for Health Integration. He is the Executive Director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute and Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Bioengineering at UCLA. Dr. Soon-Shiong is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In 1993, he performed the world’s first encapsulated human islet transplant and the first pig to man islet cell transplant in diabetic patients.
“It is an honor for me to be part of the Lakers family and the nation’s foremost basketball franchise,” said Soon-Shiong. “The Lakers’ leadership and spirit of community engendered by Dr. Jerry Buss and his family is an inspiration to us all. Our family looks forward to a future filled with the excitement this team brings to the city and the nation. Earvin Johnson is a shining example of excellence on and off the court, and it is a privilege to have acquired his ownership position.”