On April 9, 2019, just minutes before the Los Angeles Lakers took the floor for their regular season final against the Portland Trail Blazers, Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as president of the Lakers basketball operations. He didn’t tell Jeanie Buss he was leaving, he didn’t tell Rob Pelinka he was leaving, and he didn’t tell LeBron James he was leaving; he just left.
Johnson’s resignation was the end of one chapter for the Lakers and the beginning of another. But before they could close that chapter, Johnson had to tell his side of the story: the betrayal and “stabbing”
But that was before. Now the Lakers are back on top, in part because of the work Johnson did as their president of basketball operations.
During the Johnson Lakers regime, Kentavid Caldwell-Papa and LeBron James signed; moves that were possible because of the controversial deals Johnson made. Also under the Johnson regime, the team drafted Kyle Kuzma and signed Alex Caruso for a two-way contract. The Lakers would not have become NBA champions without Johnson’s contribution, and that’s true despite the damage he did during his time at the front office.
The saying “victory fixes everything” is usually reserved for locker rooms, but is obviously true of Johnson and Pelinka’s relationship. In a recent interview with Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Johnson said he spoke with Pelinka after the Lakers won their championship on Sunday, and they appear to be looking forward to next season:
“After I left, those things were in the past,” Johnson told The Times on the phone. “But I was still a Laker and nothing has changed there. And the love that Gianni and I have for each other will always be there and has always been there. That hasn’t changed either. I’ve always wanted the best for the Lakers, so anything I could do to help the Lakers win the NBA, I would do. Rob and I managed to get through the situation and now we are fine. We are friends. We talked about a repeat last night. ”
Not surprisingly, Johnson and Pelinka are already talking about a replay. Johnson won titles in 1987 and 1988, and Pelinka’s former client, Kobe Bryant, won the title twice in his career, including three peats from 2000 to 2002. These boys believe the championship is coming (at least) in pairs.
One year basketball took the Lakers to get it. Once we finish celebrating number 17 (and find out when the 2020-21 season will start), we can start thinking about number 18.
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