In this file photo taken on February 16, 2019 Magic Johnson reacts after being introduced at halftime during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 9 2019 Picture: STREETER LECKA/GETTY IMAGES
In this file photo taken on February 16, 2019 Magic Johnson reacts after being introduced at halftime during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 9 2019 Picture: STREETER LECKA/GETTY IMAGES

Los Angeles — Magic Johnson stunned the basketball world on Tuesday, abruptly resigning from his management role with the Los Angeles Lakers and plunging the ailing National Basketball Association franchise into fresh turmoil.

In a dramatic announcement which came shortly before the Lakers’ final game of the season, an emotional Johnson said he was stepping down after a two-year reign as president of basketball operations with the 16-time NBA champions.

The 59-year-old Lakers legend’s decision followed a disappointing campaign which saw the once-mighty Los Angeles franchise fail to make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year.

“Today, I’m gonna step down as the president,” Johnson told reporters at an impromptu media conference. He had been saddled with the task of reviving the Lakers and played a pivotal role in persuading LeBron James to join the team in 2018 in a blockbuster move.

However, the Lakers’ revival stalled this season when James was injured, triggering a slump that saw the team fall from playoff contention.

Johnson also attracted criticism for an unsuccessful pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, a move which was widely reported to have destabilised the Lakers'  locker room. Johnson told reporters on Tuesday he was stepping down in order to preserve his friendship with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, describing her as “like a sister".

The former Lakers star also revealed he had been wearied by the responsibilities of his position, saying he had not enjoyed the process of hiring and firing personnel.

“[Jeanie Buss] and I have such an amazing relationship,” Johnson said. “She gave me full power to do what I wanted to do, but I think that with her and I, I want to always preserve our relationship. I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and the ambassador to everybody. I had more fun on the other side than on this side.”

Johnson was widely expected to swing the axe on Lakers’ coach Luke Walton on Wednesday following their final game of the season at the Staples Center against Portland. However, he hinted that Walton may now stay.

“Tomorrow I would have to affect someone’s livelihood and their life,” Johnson said, without referring to Walton directly. “And I thought about that. And that’s not fun for me. That’s not who I am.”

AFP