Magic Johnson is more than his Twitter account. The person represented 280 characters at a time is a bit oafish and well-mannered. He’s the person at the office who just wants to relay the results of last night’s game and say largely kind things about those who enter his purview. The real Magic Johnson shrewdly built a post-basketball empire, even if recent entanglements with the Los Angeles Lakers ended in messy divorce. His megawatt smile belies a seasoned and savvy approach to manners of public relations and self-service.
So make no mistake: what he did this morning on First Take was nothing short of genius and reflective of a person who understands exactly how to manipulate the conversation and control a narrative.
Let’s talk about the timing. Johnson could have addressed the elephant in the room, throwing Rob Pelinka under the bus, at any time in the last month since he quit. He chose to do it a few hours before the team announced Frank Vogel as the new head coach in a press conference. It put Pelinka and the dysfunctional Lakers on the defensive and added to the circus-like nature of what has been a three-ring circus.
Let’s talk about the venue. Johnson could have given Ramona Shelburne an interview to air at halftime of a Warriors-Blazers game. He could have gone on The Jump. He could have even gone on LeBron James’ show.
Instead he chose First Take, a show that embraces salaciousness as much as it embraces debate. A show where Stephen A. Smith will gladly jump into the drama. A show where every nugget and barb will be richly celebrated and will land with an audience particularly interested in this story.
Johnson opted to do a live interview so nothing could be cut. He was open and loquacious and created a firestorm. After weeks of relative detente, he went on the offensive. This didn’t happen by accident.
Score one for Magic, who knew exactly what, where, and when he was doing this morning.