By Barry Janoff
February 21, 2017: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History", a five-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP and a member of both the College Basketball and Naismith Memorial Basketball Halls of Fame, has embarked on the next leg of his basketball life.
Johnson, who spent his entire NBA playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers (1979-91, 1996) — as well as a short-lived stint as head coach — today was named the team’s president of basketball operations by Lakers’ governor and president Jeanie Buss.
The move comes as the center of a shakeup among team hierarchy, which also saw longtime GM Mitch Kupchak relieved of his duties and Jim Buss (Jeanie Buss’ brother) reassigned from his role as Lakers’ executive vice president of basketball operations, effective immediately (although he remains a team owner along with Jeanie Buss and other siblings).
The most recent Lakers’ NBA titles were 2008-09 and 2009-10. But since 2013-14, the franchise has gone a combined 84-220 through the All-Star Game break this season.
Despite their record, the Lakers are the second-most valuable franchise in the NBA, valued at $3 billion, according to Forbes (behind only the New York Knicks at $3.3 billion).
The move comes days after the fourth anniversary of the passing long-time owner Dr. Jerry Buss (Feb. 18, 2013), father to Jeanie and Jim Buss.
"The Lakers values are so strong," Jeanie Buss said today during an interview on Spectrum SportsNet, where she was joined by Johnson. "The purple-and-gold standard dictated that . . . it was time for a change.
"This was a difficult decision,” she said. "I probably waited too long. For that, I apologize to Lakers fans."
Buss said that although Johnson represents a high-point in franchise history, "This isn’t about going back to 'Showtime'. We aren’t trying to turn back the clock. This is about the future."
Earlier in the day, Buss said in a statement that she "took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect.
"Our search for a new general manager to work with Earvin and (head) coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new general manager in short order."
Regarding Jim Buss, Jeanie Buss said, "Jim loves the Lakers. Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less."
The Lakers also said they have parted ways with John Black, who had been the team’s vice president of public relations.
This marks Johnson’s second time as an executive with the team. In 1994, he became a minority owner of the franchise as well as team vice-president. That year, he also was the team’s coach for 16 games (5-11).
"This isn’t about going back to Showtime. We aren’t trying to turn back the clock. This is about the future."
He sold his interest in the franchise in 2010, but remained as an unpaid advisor.
Among his businesses are Magic Johnson Enterprises and part ownership of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, which, like the Lakers, play in Staples Center. In addition, he is part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to Johnson, "Since 1979, I've been a part of the Laker Nation and I'm passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions."
"I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself," said Jeanie Buss. "We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again."
"Together, Earvin, Luke and our new general manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness," she said.
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