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Volume 26 No. 4
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Magic Johnson Opens Up On Lakers Structure, Decision To Step Down

Johnson did not feel like he had the power that he was promised when he accepted the Lakers job
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Magic Johnson today went on ESPN to address his decision to step down from the Lakers last month, saying his first year on the job "was tremendous" and things were "going in the right direction." But Johnson said he eventually "started hearing, 'Magic, you’re not working hard enough, Magic’s not in the office.'" He said members of the front office were telling him that GM Rob Pelinka "was saying things, and I didn't like those things said behind my back." Johnson said, "I got things happening that were being said behind my back, I don't have the power that I thought I had to make the decisions, and I told them, ‘When it’s not fun for me ... then I have to step aside.’" Johnson: "This was not like I just woke up saying, ‘I'm going to leave the Lakers.’ This was building up.” He said of working with Pelinka, "I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore, especially when I’ve got to work beside you, knowing that you want my position, and I am okay with that. I told him in year two, 'I'm only going to be here three years, so my job is to get you ready for this position.'"

WHERE DOES THE POWER LIE? Johnson said in his original negotiations with Lakers Controlling Owner & CEO Jeanie Buss, he told her, "‘I can't give up all my businesses. I make more money doing that than becoming the president of the Lakers, so you know I will be in and out. Is that ok with you?’ She said yes. I said, ‘Do I have the power to make decisions,’ because that was important for me to take the job. She said, ‘You have the power to make the decisions.’" Johnson said moving forward, Buss needs to "empower somebody, whoever that is," and mentioned Pelinka and Lakers Senior Basketball Advisor Kurt Rambis. Johnson said of Buss, "I love her because she’s smart and she loves the Lakers, but she can't be emotionally tied to the guys" ("First Take," ESPN, 5/20).