How nepotism destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers?
As you probably know by now, yesterday Magic Johnson took a crazy decision as he stepped down from his position as the president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. Since I heard the news, I’ve been listening to analysis and debates about the reasons that made Magic resign. After all the videos and articles I draw the conclusion that the problem is much deeper than it looks right now.
Let’s start with the beginning. Between 1979 and 2013, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers was Mr. Jerry Buss, which is considered the best executive in the history of all sports. In his time, the team gained the reputation of one of the best organizations in the world. Los Angeles Lakers managed to win a lot of titles and it became one of the most attractive destinations in the NBA. However, after Jerry Buss’ death, his daughter, Jeanie Buss, became the new owner of the team and everything changed.
Jeanie Buss is one of the most beloved owners in the league right now because she has a different mindset than the others. She leads the organization more with her heart than with her head. As Adrian Wojnarowski stated, Jeanie Buss views the Lakers organization as a family not as a business. That’s why she fears to take bold decisions because she doesn’t want to offend anyone. Jeanie has kept her brother in the position of vice president of basketball operations even though he was one of the worst executives.
Finally, she had the courage to fire her own brother but she replaced him and Mitch Kupchak with other men that had a lot to do with the Lakers. Magic Johnson, one of this team’s legends became the president of basketball operations while Rob Pelinka, the former agent of Kobe Bryant, became the general manager. Also, Luke Walton, an ex-player of the Los Angeles Lakers, had been assigned as the head coach of the organization one year before.
This is a huge sign of nepotism and last night it was proven that this way of leading doesn’t work. Over time, there have been a lot of stories about Jeanie refusing to fire Walton or to let go players such as Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. However, she is not the only one to blame for this situation. Every analyst said last night that Magic Johnson wasn’t the best president of basketball operations. Actually, he took some really bad decisions.
First of all, he let players like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle or Brook Lopez go to other teams. Ok, the D’Angelo Russell move was necessary because of the drama that he created with Nick Young. However, there was no need for letting Julius Randle or Brook Lopez go, as they were really important for the Lakers. They proved during the season how valuable they could have been for the Californian organization this season.
Another bad move of Magic Johnson is that he traded Ivica Zubac at the middle of this season, as he was becoming better and better. All these decisions show that Magic wasn’t involved so much in this job. Actually, during this season the relationship between him and Rob Pelinka got colder and colder because Magic Johnson was gone all the time. He treated this position very superficially and he didn’t get the job done. Magic’s main achievement is that he signed LeBron James and drafted Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Joe Hart but besides that, there is nothing that he has done well.
This should be a lesson for Jeanie Buss to try to hire in the future specialists who are proven to be the best at this job even though they are not part of the Lakers’ family. The names that kept appearing in all the discussions are R.C Buford (San Antonio Spurs), Sam Presti (Oklahoma City Thunder), Bob Myers (Golden State Warriors), and Masai Ujiri (Toronto Raptors). However, there are two solutions which might be better than all of these.
The first one is Jerry West, which is arguably the best GM in the history of all sports. However, he is 80 years old and currently working with the Los Angeles Clippers. Also, the departure of Jerry West from the team wasn’t very good so it is hard to believe that he will come back. The other solution is David Griffin, the ex-GM of Cleveland Cavaliers. He is good at his job and he also has a great relationship with LeBron James, who is such an important part of this organization. So, he should be the frontrunner for the position of president of basketball operations at the LA Lakers.
So, Jeanie Buss needs to hire a president of basketball operations as soon as possible. Then, she needs to let him do his job and not intervene even though she might feel in another way. After that, Lakers should be able to attract some free agent superstars and continue to build their dynasty.