Video: Ex-Lakers President Magic Johnson Defends Drafting Lonzo Ball in 2017

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 23:  Lonzo Ball and Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, of the Los Angeles Lakers talk to the media during a press conference on June 23, 2017 at the team training faculity in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson still believes he made the right decision by drafting Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick two years ago. 

Johnson appeared on ESPN's First Take on Friday and defended the pick when Stephen A. Smith called him out:

First Take @FirstTake

.@MagicJohnson not afraid to stand by picking Lonzo Ball to go to the Lakers 😅 https://t.co/bmWgobR462

The Lakers hired Johnson to run their basketball operations in February 2017. His first major move was to select Ball, who was coming off a consensus All-American season at UCLA, in the 2017 NBA draft.

Never one to err on the side of caution, Johnson told reporters he expected the Lakers to one day retire Ball's jersey before he ever played in an NBA game.

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Magic just told Lonzo to look up at the jerseys on the wall (including his own, of course): “We expect a Ball jersey up there one day."

Things didn't work out for Johnson or Ball in Los Angeles. Johnson infamously resigned as president before last season's final game in an impromptu press conference. 

Ball has battled injuries over the past two seasons, playing in just 99 games. He averaged 10.0 points, 6.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game and shot 38.0 percent from the field for the Lakers.

Los Angeles moved on from Ball over the summer, trading him to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the package to land Anthony Davis.