Johnson dropped a bombshell in April when he quit the Lakers an hour before the team's last home game

Advertisement

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has spoken out for the first time about his reaction to NBA legend Magic Johnson abruptly stepping down from the franchise earlier this year.

After taking on the role of the president of basketball operations of the Lakers in February 2017, Johnson left the position in a spur of the moment press conference in April — just an hour before the team’s last home game of the season. Calling it the “right thing to do, the right move to make,” Johnson, 59, also made the shocking announcement that he hadn’t told Jeanie Buss — the team’s controlling owner, president and Johnson’s lifelong friend — or general manager Rob Pelinka of his decision at that point.

That meant James, who was recruited by Johnson last summer to join the Lakers in free agency, hadn’t received a heads up about the news, either.

“My right hand [man] comes to me and says, ‘Magic just stepped down,’ ” James, 34, recalled in an episode of HBO’s The Shop this weekend. “I’m like, ‘You mean from out of his car? Get the f— out of my face.’ … He’s like, ‘Go check your phone.’ “

James, who was suffering a hamstring injury and was not playing that night, was in the locker room when the news was confirmed for him.

“No one had no idea,” James said. “We were like, ‘Damn, like right now?’ It was literally 70 minutes on the clock before [the game]. I’m not playing, but my team is still playing, and you kind of decide to do that right here, right now.”

“I feel like there’s a time and place for things, and I believe that you knew that you were going to make that decision, so why would you do it here and why would you do it now?”

As USA Today reported, James, Johnson and Pelinka met for three hours just days before the news broke, and Johnson hadn’t given them any indication he was thinking of leaving the team then.

“Personally for me, I came here to be a part of the Lakers organization, having a conversation with Magic and really kind of breaking it down and saying how we were going to make this ‘Showtime’ again, and I wanted to be part of that process,” James recalled of the meeting he had with Johnson that influenced him to join the Lakers.

LeBron James, Magic Johnson
LeBron James and Magic Johnson
| Credit: Harry How/Getty; Emma McIntyre/Getty

“He explained to me year one is going to be tough,” he continued. “But I was okay with the process. At year 16, you aren’t really supposed to be worrying about no damn process, especially for me because I’m in championship-mind mode all the time.”

For as close as a relationship that they appeared to have, James said he was surprised Johnson didn’t speak to him one-on-one about the decision.

“So it was just weird for him to just be like, ‘I’m out of here’ and not even have no like, ‘Hey Bron, kiss my ass. I’m out of here.’ I would’ve been okay with that. ‘Hey Bron, it’s Magic. Kiss my ass, I’m gone.’ Not even that.”

Since Johnson’s departure, there has been much speculation surrounding what the Lakers will do this summer. It’s widely expected they will sign James’ former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue after Luke Walton was dismissed following the season.

No one has been hired yet to replace Johnson in his old role as president of basketball operations.