NEW YORK — Magic Johnson stepped down as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations on Tuesday night.
The 59-year-old Johnson didn’t tell the club’s high management about his decision before he announced it in front of reporters less than two hours before the Lakers’ regular-season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center.
“I want to go back to having fun,” Johnson said. “I want to go back to being who I was before taking on this job. We’re halfway there with LeBron coming (last summer). I think this summer, with that other star coming in, whoever is going to bring him in. I think this team is really going to be in position to contend for a championship with the growth of the young players.”
Magic denied that the decision is about Coach Luke Walton, despite rumors that the two have an ice-cold relationship and that Johnson intended to fire him. Instead, he cited he wants to interact with and comment on players on other teams like he used to, without getting the Lakers fined for tampering.
“I want to be free and not have handcuffs on me,” Johnson said.
Johnson took up his role, replacing Jim Buss in February 2017. His two-year-spell as the president was highlighted by the blockbuster signing of Lebron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers to rebuild the team last summer, but was controversial for a failed attempt to introduce the New Orleans Pelican’s Anthony Davis.
The Lakers missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, and are 10th in the Western Conference with a 37-44 record. (Xinhua/PNA)