On a night in which the NBA honored two all-time greats in Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki, Magic Johnson stole the show when he decided he'd rather just be Magic Johnson.
What's happening: In a move that reportedly caught even those closest to him off guard, Johnson announced that he was stepping down from his position as the Lakers' president of basketball operations just over two years after taking the job.
- In an impromptu press conference ahead of the Lakers' final game of the season, Johnson spoke about his desire to go back to being a "statesman of the game," unshackled by tampering rules and free to tweet at and mentor whomever he wants.
- He also talked about how much he hated the idea of having to fire embattled coach Luke Walton. Now that Johnson's gone, Walton will presumably stay with the team (for now).
- "End of the day, Magic claims he has too much love for [team owner] Jeanie Buss to hurt someone she loves in Luke Walton. A high-stakes basketball version of the Gift of the Magi. Stunning," tweeted ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
What they're saying:
- Johnson: "I was happier when I wasn't the president. ... The fines and the tampering and the this and the that ... I don't like that. I like to be free."
- ESPN's Dan Le Batard: "Magic Johnson has grown very comfortable at the business of being Magic Johnson, [which] doesn't require a lot of work at this point. ... Being the head of a non-playoff team that requires architecture is too much 'hands dirty' for a legend of his stature to be dealing with anymore."
- Jeanie Buss: "Earvin, I loved working side by side with you. You've brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you." (A classy tweet given the fact that sources said the Buss family feels "stunned, sad, angry and disappointed.")
The big picture: Leaving like this — with the Lakers just months away from one of the important summers in franchise history and with the Walton situation still unresolved — feels a lot like quitting a job that got too hard.
- Not a great look for Magic (though I support his decision, as I would support anyone's decision when their only goal is to be happy), and not a great look for the Lakers, either.
- Silver lining: The Lakers don't need Magic, they need a plan. So perhaps him leaving is actually a good thing for this franchise. Plus, now that he's a regular member of society, Johnson can try to convince every superstar in the world to sign with the Lakers without the NBA fining him.
What's next: Make Kobe the coach, GM and team president. Let's do this thing. JK, but not really.
Watch: Full press conference