Magic Johnson abruptly resigned in a manner that, while not totally out of character for him, was eyebrow-raising in the fashion that one wondered if there was more to come.
Lakers reporter Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times broached a topic on whether there was an ulterior motive for Magic’s resignation, in the form of an impending ESPN exposé. Magic denied this was the reason:
As word spread through the Lakers’ organization and the NBA, several people wondered whether Johnson’s departure was related to a yet-to-be-published article by ESPN that is said to address allegations about Johnson’s conduct with employees. “That story is wrong,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. He later added to a group of reporters: “Never disrespected anybody. Never did anything bad. Am I tough? Hell, yeah! You work for me, I’m demanding. But at the same time I’m fair. They’ve been talking about that article for how many months? Everybody running, ‘Oh they’re writing an article.’ I’m gonna say, why didn’t they interview anybody at ESPN? If I was doing something wrong to employees disrespecting, this or that, think they would’ve hired me twice?”
Stephen A. Smith, speaking on First Take this morning, said that Magic resigned from the Lakers because he felt “betrayed”.
“Let me tell you what’s going on here,” Smith said at the 1:15-mark of the snippet video above. “Magic Johnson feels betrayed. Magic Johnson feels betrayed by folks within the Lakers organization. Not Jeanie Buss, but folks within the Lakers organization. He was hearing the chirping and the whispering, which he alluded to in the press conference yesterday.”
“And there’s so much stuff that’s been going on,” he continued. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. You hear about some exposé that ESPN or someone was going to report, because people were chirping about what he was like as a boss. That annoyed him. You’ve got Rob Pelinka, the general manager, pivotal in all this, because he was the individual who was talked about at Lakers facilities constantly joking around asking the question Where’s Magic? — to bring attention to the fact that Magic Johnson was perceived as being an absentee executive.”
We have reached out to ESPN for comment on if there’s an upcoming exposé, and will update if we hear back.
UPDATE: An ESPN spokesperson sent the following statement to The Big Lead: “It is our journalistic practice never to discuss or comment on reporting we do before we’re prepared to share that work with our audience.”