The Los Angeles Lakers have given Magic Johnson a beautiful piece of jewelry. Perhaps the legendary point guard will wear it on the middle finger that he gave the NBA team by walking away from his front-office job.
Some may view the Lakers’ gesture as appreciation for a retired star who also owned a piece of the franchise for a time. Considering the way he left, however, giving Johnson any sort of credit for the 2020 league title is an insult to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who did the heavy lifting for LA’s 17th NBA championship.
Magic Johnson earned his first 10 NBA championship rings
Magic Johnson came to the NBA in 1979 after an NCAA championship at Michigan State and became a point guard the likes of which the league had never seen. At 6-foot-8, Johnson saw over defenders and made the game look easy. Besides leading the NBA in assists four times and steals twice, Johnson averaged 19.5 points and 7.2 rebounds over 13 seasons on the court.
The 11-time All-Star was an integral part of five Los Angeles Lakers championship teams from 1980-88 and a no-brainer selection for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In retirement, Johnson became a successful businessman and a minority owner of the Lakers, picking up five more rings between 2000 and 2010.
He was a failure as a team executive
The Lakers of the past decade mostly weren’t very good. Before LeBron James’ arrival in 2018, LA hadn’t won more than 35 games in any of its previous five seasons.
Magic Johnson came aboard as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in February 2017. The team limped to a 26-56 finish with Lou Williams coming off the bench to average a team-high 18.6 points a game. Second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell averaged 15.6 points and appeared to be a valuable piece to build around.
At season’s end, however, Johnson traded Russell for Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez. That deal would have gone into the win column had Lopez not walked away as a free agent after one season, and the Lakers also lost Julius Randle with nothing in return. Giving up Ivica Zubac for the Clippers’ Mike Muscala in a swap of low-post players a year later was another small blow.
On the same day that the Lakers finished a 37-45 year to cap James’ first year there, Johnson dropped a bomb on April 9, 2019, by announcing his resignation without first giving a heads-up to owner Jeanie Buss or general manager Rob Pelinka.
“Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, because I know she’s going to be sick,” Johnson said. “But I knew I couldn’t face her face-to-face and tell her.”
The Los Angeles Lakers presented Magic Johnson another ring
The Los Angeles Lakers presented the 2020 NBA championship rings to their players on opening night at Staples Center last week. The Lakers’ “L” logo on the exquisite pieces consists of 17 purple amethyst stones weighing .95 carats apiece. Each ring also contains .52 carats of yellow diamonds.
The rings weigh in at 16.45 carats apiece with 804 stones. They are presumed to be the most expensive championship rings in league history.
As is tradition with championship teams in the various sports, the Lakers also awarded rings to multiple others in the organization as a sign of appreciation for their work in less-visible roles.
Surprisingly, however, owner Jeanie Buss signed off on giving rings to Magic Johnson and his wife despite the fact the retired star played absolutely no role in basketball operations last season.
“Cookie and I are so blessed to receive our championship rings! Thank you to Laker owner @JeanieBuss, the Laker players and especially @KingJames because he told me he was going to bring a championship to Laker Nation,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “This is my 11th NBA Championship ring!”
All things considered, keeping it quiet would have been the more appropriate way to go.