Johnson sent shockwaves through the Lakers franchise Tuesday night when, in a teary-eyed announcement before the team's season finale, he announced his "difficult decision". "I couldn't stand to tell her", per Bill Oram of The Athletic.
Johnson retired in 1991 after he tested positive for HIV, but later returned briefly to the Lakers as a player and a coach. And I don't want to disappoint her.
"I hope that after tomorrow, the Lakers can head in the right direction, which we are", Johnson said.
LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson's decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James' thinking told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
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"If we were not, I'd probably be staying", Johnson added. "I like to be free". "Serena Williams called me a week ago and said, 'Will you mentor me and be on my advisory board?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'm going to do that'". "And I think I had more fun when I was able to the be big brother and ambassador". He was drafted by the Lakers with the 32nd pick in the 2003 and played in Los Angeles for over eight seasons, winning two championships.
The Hall of Famer returned to the Lakers in an executive role in February 2017, replacing Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss in the front office.
Johnson's departure comes as the team wraps up a dismal season, with 37 wins and 44 losses heading into tonight's game. It was a slight improvement from last season when the team finished the year on a 35-47 record.
The Lakers face a make or break offseason, as they search for a second star to pair with James in their quest to vault back into the Western Conference's upper echelon.