Magic Johnson’s abrupt departure from the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office in April never was really explained all that well, with Johnson himself only saying that he wanted “to go back to being a businessman and helping the black community and the Latino community” and that he didn’t like being “handcuffed” by NBA anti-tampering rules that prevented him from talking about players on other teams.
On Monday, however, Johnson spun an entirely different tale, mainly that he resented the “backstabbing” and “whispering” behind his back, and he pointed the finger directly at General Manager Rob Pelinka, who was hired by the Lakers at the same time Johnson assumed the team’s presidency.
When negotiating his job requirements with team controlling owner Jeanie Buss, Johnson said he made it clear to her that he still needed to deal with his other business interests and that he wanted final say on personnel decisions.
In a startlingly frank interview on “First Take” on ESPN, Johnson, who resigned as team president last month, painted a picture of dysfunction at the Lakers, and openly accused the team’s general manager of stabbing him in the back.
“I started to hear Magic’s not working hard enough, Magic’s not in the office,” Johnson said, identifying the person speaking badly about him as Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager.
“I didn’t like those things being said behind my back,” Johnson said, adding that he had been warned that Pelinka would act that way.
“If you’re going to talk about betrayal, it’s only with Rob,” he said. “I wasn’t having fun going to work, knowing that you want my position.”
“Somebody’s got to be the leader, there’s too many voices,” he said of the Lakers front office.