Before becoming President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson made his mark for the NBA’s premier franchise as a player. Magic hit the ground running from his rookie season, amassing a legendary career via both individual and team accomplishments and becoming arguably the greatest Laker of all time.
But it was not always a given that Magic’s career would play out as a lifelong Laker the way that it did. It’s been a long-known story that Johnson wanted to play out his career in Detroit near his family and near his alma mater at Michigan State.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss revealed on the Michael Rosenbaum Podcast that Johnson was open about his desire to leave for Detroit the first time he visited the Buss family’s home after being drafted. According to Buss, Magic told her right then that he would be leaving in just a short while:
“We start having a conversation. He said ‘I’m really excited that I was drafted by the Lakers but I’m only going to stay here for three years because I want to go back to Detroit and play for the Pistons because that’s where I’m from.'”
Jeanie then tells the story of her running upstairs to tell her father, then-Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss about what Magic had just proclaimed and Dr. Buss in all his badass glory had the greatest, calmest response:
“He says, ‘Jeanie, as soon as he puts on a Laker uniform and steps out on the floor at the Forum, he’s never going to leave.’ He didn’t even look at me. He knew. He knew what was going to happen.”
Dr. Buss was, of course, correct. Not only did Magic finish out his playing career with the Lakers, but he’s been involved in the organization from coaching to consulting to his current role consistently since retiring from the NBA.
The Lakers method of operating the franchise is often criticized and sometimes fairly so. But in this instance the “Lakers exceptionalism” and confidence in the team’s brand and history that Dr. Buss possessed proved to be fruitful.