Magic Johnson abruptly resigned from his job as president of basketball operations for the Lakers on Tuesday, and while it caught almost everyone by surprise, it in retrospect is not the most astonishing thing in the world given his track record.
In the 1993-94 NBA season, Magic Johnson took over as coach of the Lakers late in the year. The team went 5-11 in his brief tenure, and he realized that the role was not for him and opted not to return. The Seattle Times chronicled at the time:
“Whatever happens, life is good,” he said, smiling. “One way or another, I’m going to be happy.” Johnson, 34, denied that his wife was unhappy about his coaching, although the job takes away time he previously had spent with her and their young son. “Cookie is loving it, but there’s a good side and a bad side,” he said. “She’ll be talking to me, and I’ll be staring into space, thinking about a play. She’ll have to bring me back.”
On TV, Magic has had a variety of roles. He appeared on NBA on NBC, he had a short-lived syndicated talk show in the late 90’s that was canceled after two months, and he had two separate stints on ESPN/ABC NBA Countdown.
The first time he left Countdown has been the subject of a lot of controversy. Three weeks before the 2013-14 NBA season, Magic abruptly announced he was leaving the show. John Koblin, then at Deadspin and now a media reporter at the New York Times, reported that, after his friend Michael Wilbon’s role was reduced, Magic left the show because of Bill Simmons.
Simmons was caught off-guard by that report, and over the years has on multiple occasions emphatically insisted that he had a great relationship with Magic and this Deadspin story was a result of people in Bristol who didn’t like him planting it (he most recently broadly discussed the story on his podcast with John Skipper). In the formal announcement, Johnson said, “[D]ue to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role.”
Whatever the actual reasoning was, it’s yet another time Magic abruptly left a job as his bosses had to scramble to handle the fallout. Tuesday night may have been Magic’s most dramatic exit to date, but it wasn’t entirely out of character.