Is Magic Johnson an Analyst or a Lakers Exec First and Foremost?
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But, since Johnson remains a vice-president of the Lakers, does that also make him the king of conflict? And can he be both an analyst and adviser to the very team he passes judgment on through the media?
The simple answer is, yes he can.
Magic Johnson sold his 4.5 percent interest in the Lakers to Patrick Soon-Shiong, the nation's 46th-richest individual according to Forbes magazine, in 2010. He bought into the team in 1994 for a reported $10 million and his shares were valued at more than $27 million when he sold them. According to sources, he made between $50-60 million on the sale of his shares.
While Johnson is a VP of the organization, Lakers management and ownership make personnel decisions through a small group that includes Dr. Jerry Buss, his son Jim and the team's general manager, Mitch Kupchak.
The reason Johnson can be both an analyst and executive with the Lakers is because his opinions about the team represent his and his alone. And because Magic makes no decisions about who plays and who coaches the team, his opinions carry more weight than his advisory role.
Magic Johnson is one of the most colorful and respected sports figures in America. He is also a supremely successful entrepreneur and a minority owner in the Los Angeles Dodgers, having committed a reported $50 million to buy a small stake in the iconic franchise.
But first and foremost, Magic is an analyst. A very popular analyst, with well over one million fans who follow him on Twitter.
Johnson never pretends to be what he is not. ESPN does not bring him in studio to analyze particular plays.
Fans want to hear what Magic is thinking about the team he ran as the league's top point guard before having to retire in 1991 after learning he had contracted the HIV-AIDS virus.
And Johnson is not shy about offering opinions. He did not like the hiring of Mike Brown as Phil Jackson's replacement back in 2011, and he voiced his displeasure with the hiring of Mike D'Antoni to replace Brown five games into the 2012-13 season.
Johnson was on ESPN's "NBA countdown" November 15 when he said:
"I love Dr. (Jerry) Buss. I don't believe in Jim Buss. He's made two critical mistakes already. To me, they made two critical mistakes.
"First, hiring Mike Brown -- he wasn't the right coach. He's a great coach but not the right coach for the Lakers. And I don't feel Mike D'Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers. Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach. Jim Buss decided he didn't want Phil Jackson, he wanted Mike D'Antoni. And that's OK, but why didn't you just say that? But the fans were cheering for Phil Jackson two nights in a row."
Johnson was quick to let his Twitter followers know that he had nothing to do with the firing of Mike Brown, even though he called for his ouster last spring after the Lakers were on the verge of losing to Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
When Brown was let go earlier this season, Johnson spoke to his fans via Twitter:
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"I'd like to address some rumors related to my role in the firing of Mike Brown. I had NO conversations w/ Dr. Buss, Jim Buss or Mitch."
Johnson continues to work for ESPN, commenting on all teams in the NBA. In fact, he has not said much about the Lakers since he criticized D'Antoni last month for using Pau Gasol as a perimeter passer and jump shooter.
But, if the Lakers continue to stumble—and there is no reason at this stage to think otherwise—then expect to hear comments from Magic Johnson. When it comes to the Lakers, he says what he feels in his heart.
Johnson is passionate about the game of basketball, especially about the team he led to five World Championships during the 1980s.
Magic Johnson is an analyst of the game he loves. That will never change.
Nor will it deter him from continuing as a very successful businessman, with sources estimating his net worth as high as $770 million.
Magic Johnson has created a whole new category: executive analyst. And somehow, it all works.
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