Magic Johnson said he gave Lakers owner Jeanie Buss two conditions before becoming team president:
1. He wanted to work part-time.
2. He wanted full control.
Buss, according to Johnson, approved both.
This turned into a disaster for the Lakers. Johnson didn’t work hard enough to succeed in what should be a full-time job. He didn’t properly manage people around him, including Buss, in order to generate actual control. Last month, he quit.
That Johnson couldn’t foresee these problems is an understandable effect of his ego and desire to have this elite position. That Buss didn’t foresee these problems is an indictment of her as owner. She was in charge and empowered Johnson to execute his doomed plan of leadership.
Making matters worse for the Lakers, Johnson went on television to detail all the other disarray – most notably accusing general manager of Rob Pelinka of betrayal – in the organization under Buss’ watch.
Buss had questioned Johnson several times in the wake of his public resignation, asking him if there were any issues with Pelinka or anyone else in the organization. They spoke on the phone for hours. They went to a private dinner at Wally’s in Beverly Hills on May 2. Multiple Lakers sources told ESPN that each time, Johnson said nothing beyond what he’d said on April 9 — that he didn’t feel like he could be Magic in this role and wanted his freedom back.
Johnson says and does what he wants. That’s the luxury of the fame and wealth he built as an NBA player and businessman.
He said he resigned publicly without first telling Buss because he couldn’t stand to face her. Looking her in the eyes and explaining all the ways she was failing as owner would have been another difficult conversation to hold.
So, he didn’t.
This is petty and self-serving on Johnson’s part, and I wouldn’t blame Buss for resenting it.
But she also ought to realize how she helped enable it.