Johnson looking forward to one day running own NBA team

The topic, dismissed even in recent months by veteran Lakers insiders,
is no longer couched in whispered possibility but openly discussed as

Magic Johnson will probably be splitting with the Lakers.

That comes from Johnson himself, with corroboration from owner Jerry Buss, and if Magic and one of his closest confidants are talking about a strong likelihood that an icon of the franchise and maybe even the city is ready to pack, there goes all doubt he wants it to happen. Or, rather, that he needs it to happen, because Johnson wants a large piece in a franchise or at the very least the chance to run a front office and neither of those will happen as the Lakers remain a Buss family operation.

There is even the contrast of how his public approach has changed. Trying to avoid speculation that he was ready to break with the only NBA home he has known, Johnson responded to a question in March that he was not part of a group looking to buy the Warriors when, in fact, he was very much involved with the credible bid of former 24 Hour Fitness head Mark Mastrov. By last week, though, the same Johnson, a Michigan native, was admitting his interest in becoming a minority owner of the Pistons and his openness to a prominent role in the front office even without a stake in his hometown franchise. And that was without being part of any interest organizing a bid or so much as having serious talks with any titan putting up most of the money.

Johnson, by all accounts very successful in private business, has become that aggressive in wanting to move into a leadership role with an NBA team.

"Life takes many turns," he said.

Including those away from the Lakers.

"I’ll still be a Laker forever," Johnson said. "If there’s a chance for me to go run a team, if I felt that’s what I wanted to do, would I take it? Yeah, if the right situation came. I know one day that’s gonna probably happen. I love being with Dr. Buss and the Buss family and working with them, but I know one day something is going to happen. I can definitely see me not being with the Lakers, yeah."

It’s not just the thought of an all-time great leaving the franchise, and it’s not even the fact that Magic was beloved as a charismatic player who defined the glam and clutch play of the Showtime era, or that he remains very popular and is cheered when his picture is flashed on the video board. That’s Hall of Fame players in a lot of places.

This is someone whose relationship with Jerry Buss has always been more father-son than executive-player. Indeed, one of Buss’ brightest memories in 31 years of running the Lakers is being a new owner in 1979, taking rookie Johnson to the Coliseum for a USC football game and hearing various people in the stands shouting "Magic!" as the pair walked to and from their seats. That was when Buss began to really comprehend the potential electricity of the teenager from Michigan State, and they have remained very close friends through the decades.

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