(J Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com)
Magic Johnson Discusses Role As Advisor to Lakers Ownership
After retiring from basketball in 1996, Magic Johnson tried to convince some of his friends not to get rid of their season tickets, saying that the team would be back on top sooner than they expected.
They didn’t take Johnson’s advice and soon regretted it, as they found themselves coming back to him asking for seats when the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal that summer, kickstarting the franchise’s return to collecting championships.
Johnson is committed to helping the franchise turn itself around again, as it was announced Thursday morning that he had accepted a role as an advisor to Co-Owner and President Jeanie Buss.
“One thing about this organization is we always come back,” Johnson said in an interview on Spectrum SportsNet. “And we will come back again. … I’m here to say that we’re ready to take that step.”
Buss offered the opportunity to Johnson — who will have a hand in all matters of basketball and business — over dinner last month.
Though he had previous opportunities to join ownership and management of other franchises — such as Golden State, New York and Detroit — Johnson felt too connected to the Lakers to accept.
“I said no (to other teams) because I’ve always been a Laker,” Johnson said. “When (Buss) asked me to come aboard in this role, I thought it was the perfect role for me.”
Though he accepted the role from Jeanie Buss, Johnson extended his services to the entire organization, including fellow Co-Owners Joey Buss and Jesse Buss, whom he met with on Thursday alongside Jeanie at the Lakers’ practice facility.
As a successful basketball player and businessman, Johnson said he is willing to give his advice on whichever area is needed, from sponsorships and season tickets to on-court work with the team.
And though he offered to mentor players such as D’Angelo Russell, whom he would like to see step up as the team’s leader, Johnson also said that he is all right with keeping his role apart from the players if that’s what head coach Luke Walton wants.
Hours after the announcement, Walton endorsed Johnson’s return to the franchise.
Walton is eager to learn more about Magic’s role. Said Magic is one of few ever to instantly command respect of all players from the jump. https://t.co/oPYhI8tPwz— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 2, 2017
Over the past few years, Johnson had been openly critical about the Lakers’ Basketball Operations Department, claiming that the previous coaches hired didn’t mesh with the pieces of the roster.
But he considers Walton the “perfect choice for the talent that we have” and has spoken with the two leaders of L.A.’s front office: General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss.
Johnson met with Kupchak and talked over the phone with Buss, who is also a Co-Owner of the team.
“Jim is calling the shots, and I want him to understand I’m just here to lend advice,” Johnson said.
I had a great conversation today with Mitch Kupchak and a really good phone call with Jim Buss!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 3, 2017
Johnson also wants to lend his credibility, claiming a desire to be in the Lakers’ pitch meetings to free agents.
He expressed enthusiasm about the current, young squad and said that it is one major piece away from challenging teams like Golden State and San Antonio, which have been free agent magnets over the past few years.
“We’re a superstar away from competing against both of those teams,” Johnson said. “One guy changes our landscape, because we have everything we need now, except that one guy to make everybody better.
“That’s why I joined. If I felt we were far away and it was going to be a waste of my time, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have taken this role. I know that we have the pieces in place and we will continue to get better.”