Magic Johnson Rips into Mike D'Antoni and LA Lakers on 'The Tonight Show'

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2014

FILE - This April 6, 2009 file photo shows former Lakers star Magic Johnson during a news conference before the championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina at the men's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, in Detroit. A group that includes Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten agreed Tuesday night, March 27, 2012,  to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for a record $2 billion. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

Magic Johnson shed his Los Angeles Lakers jersey in 1996, but the Hall of Famer still keeps a close watch on his franchise.

As he told Jay Leno during a recent appearance on The Tonight Show, he isn't happy with what he's seen.

Injuries, Johnson admitted, have played a big role in L.A.'s struggles. The Lakers (16-29) have gotten a combined 12 games out of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Those absences certainly haven't helped matters.

But, Johnson said, the Lakers have made some "critical mistakes" that go beyond the injury report.

The first was choosing Mike D'Antoni over legendary coach Phil Jackson. "We're the Lakers, we got to have a championship coach," Johnson told Leno. "We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back."

Johnson's biggest complaint with D'Antoni? "He don't teach defense," he said.

That's been a knock on the offensive-minded D'Antoni throughout his coaching career. Unfortunately, the stat sheet says it's one he deserves. L.A. has allowed the fifth-most points per 100 possessions (106.2) in the league this season, via

Johnson's critiques aren't very surprising. As's Ryan Ward noted, "ever since head coach Mike D’Antoni took over for Mike Brown last season, Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson hasn’t been happy with the storied NBA franchise and the decision makers in the front office."

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Johnson clearly isn't a D'Antoni fan—at least not as the Lakers coach—but he is a fan of Kobe Bryant's contract extension.

"Kobe deserves the money," Johnson said. "He's one of the greatest that's ever played the game. He's also brought us five championships."

Johnson also doesn't think the Lakers tied their hands by re-upping with Bryant. The Mamba's extension (two years, $48.5 million) just reinforced the need for L.A. to strike it rich in free agency.

"We have $26 million left, Jim Buss really has to go out and sign a good free agent," Johnson said. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh were all mentioned as possible targets, but Johnson warned, "none of these guys are going to come here if we're not about winning a championship."

Would Bryant and a potentially high lottery pick be enough to convince one of the class' biggest fish to come to Hollywood? It's hard to say right now.

There is a rich legacy with this franchise, and a historical dominance nearly unrivaled in the Association. As these comments show, though, that history has a way of popping up in the present.

And if there's a standard that isn't being met, yesterday's stars will have no problem bashing today's Lakers.