It has been more than a month since Magic Johnson resigned from his role as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. In that time, the team has been in turmoil while trying to find leadership. While leaks have been plentiful, none have been about why Johnson resigned from the organization.
On Monday, Magic appeared on ESPN’s First Take and spoke candidly about his tenure with the Lakers and his decision to step away from the team. Most notably, Johnson accused general manager Rob Pelinka of backstabbing him by telling others that Magic was never working in the office, a rumor that was leaked to the media at various times during the former point guard’s tenure.
“And then I start hearing, you know, ‘Magic, you’re not working hard enough. Magic’s not in the office enough.’ People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob [Pelinka] was saying things. I didn’t like those things being said behind my back. I start getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying those things now were said to them; not just in the Lakers office anymore, now it’s in the media.”
Johnson later confirmed that Pelinka was the only person speaking behind his back and gave more context to the issue:
“It’s really funny. I don’t worry about those type of things. I’m not a guy who’s like ‘Oh man he said this about me’ and I worry about it. What happened was I wasn’t having fun coming to work anymore especially when I got to work beside you, knowing you want my position and I’m okay with that. I told him in year two, I’m only gonna be here for three years so my job is to get you ready for this position. I was gonna help elevate him to the president’s position. What was crazy was, when I took the job, you know how many agents called and said ‘You gotta watch out for him’ and I said ‘I gotta give the guy a fair chance.’ But he was a hard worker, smart guy. Now you have that position so I’m good with that.”
Magic’s comments are not inherently surprising given the reputation that precedes Pelinka. Furthermore, there was enough smoke and speculation about the possibility of Pelinka backstabbing Magic that hearing the former president confirm it is not shocking.
Nevertheless, hearing such a claim on the record is a big deal and continues to frame the Lakers in an embarrassing but valid light. The franchise and Pelinka, in particular, will likely try to get ahead of this story but the reputation has been cast.
Pelinka is expected to speak at Frank Vogel’s introductory press conference later on Monday.