Magic Johnson's tenure as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations didn't end ideally, but Lakers owner Jeanie Buss believes he did a great deal of good for the organization before resigning.
Appearing on the Daddy Issues with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson podcast (h/t Silver Screen and Roll's Harrison Faigen), Buss credited Magic with signing LeBron James and changing the culture within the Lakers' organization:
"Using the word culture didn't have clarity to me until Magic came. It's like everybody knew, 'Okay, the hammer is coming down, we're serious, we're about winning, we'’re going to get back to winning,' and how not only from the basketball side, but from every side of the organization, everybody sat up a little bit. ... It's like, 'We're here to do something, now this is what we’re committed to.'
"And he set us off on that path, and now I've really seen how the culture has come around in terms of bringing in somebody like LeBron and the players that want to come and play with somebody like LeBron, and the coaches that we have, and the coaching staff and what they're all about, and what they're trying to accomplish."
Johnson, who is a Basketball Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players in both Lakers and NBA history, was hired as the organization's president of basketball operations in 2017.
He spearheaded the signing of LeBron in 2018, but the move didn't pay immediate dividends, as James and many of the Lakers' key players struggled through injuries during the 2018-19 season. As a result, L.A. went just 37-45 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
Johnson resigned just prior to the end of the 2018-19 campaign and later cited issues with general manager Rob Pelinka as his reason for stepping down.
Although the Lakers didn't thrive when Johnson was in the front office, he undoubtedly helped lay the groundwork for what became the Western Conference's top team in 2019-20. Johnson may have even put the foundation in place for L.A. to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, as the Lakers got the deal done during the offseason.
With James and Davis leading the way, the Lakers had a Western Conference-leading 49-14 record before the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the suspension of the season.
The Lakers will be the favorite to represent the West in the NBA Finals if and when the season resumes, and the work Johnson did played a significant role in making that happen.