In a stunning move before the Lakers' season finale against Portland, Magic Johnson announced he was stepping down from his role as the team's president of basketball of operations. The decision comes just over two years after taking 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, adding that he had not yet informed team owner Jeanie Buss of his intentions to step down.
"I couldn't face [Buss] to tell her," Johnson admitted while referring to her as "my sister."
Johnson was a key figure in the Lakers' recruitment of LeBron James last summer as well as an initial supporter of former No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball. Yet Johnson and the Lakers' front office faced scrutiny for their other moves, including the role players they signed around James, their inability to acquire Anthony Davis at the trade deadline, and the emergence of former Laker D'Angelo Russell after being dealt to Brooklyn in 2017.
Johnson repeatedly cited the need for freedom of interaction and expression with other players as a key reason behind his decision. The Lakers were fined more than once for tampering that stemmed from Johnson referencing pending free agents or discussing off-court interactions with players of opposing teams under contract.
As for his own team, Johnson remained adamant that the Lakers are already "headed in the right direction."
"Next year we're going to be good. If we get one of these [free agents], we're going to be really good.
"I'm good with where I am," a relieved Johnson told reporters. "I'm happy. I want to do the things I used to do. I had to weigh both situations and this is better for me."