Magic Johnson: ‘I’ve Never Abused an Employee. Never Will’

Magic Johnson pushed back against a published report alleging that he was something of an abusive boss during his brief tenure as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson says team owner Jeanie Buss would have never allowed such behavior.

“I’ve been in business 35 years, I’ve had partnerships with some of the biggest companies, Fortune 500 companies, in the country,” Johnson said on ESPN.

“Now, I’ve never sat in an HR person’s office in 35 years. Two years with the Lakers, no HR appearance. Jeanie Buss, do you think Jeanie Buss would allow me to abuse the employees? If that was the case, she would’ve called me in. Joe McCormick would’ve called me in, the lawyer for the Lakers, as well as Dan, the other lawyer. It never happened.”

The report paints a picture of utter dysfunction in L.A.: the franchise missed out on the playoffs despite signing LeBron James last summer, and Johnson abruptly stepped down, citing personal betrayal by general manager Rob Pelinka.


A Lakers spokesperson said the team currently employs about 300 staffers but said it didn’t have data immediately available of how many staffers have departed or have been replaced since Pelinka and Johnson were hired.

The spate of changes increased the workloads for several staff members — and in one instance in 2017, a longtime female staffer was called into an office with Johnson and Pelinka after making a mistake, according to multiple staffers present and others familiar with the incident. The mistake, sources said, involved arranging a car service to the team’s facility for a draft prospect.

“I don’t stand for mistakes!” Johnson shouted at her. “I don’t make mistakes.”

Johnson also made clear, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, that if the staffer made one more mistake, she would be fired.

In the office, the staffer apologized and later, off site, began to cry, according to multiple people with knowledge of the incident. In the months ahead, she would suffer increased anxiety and panic attacks. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, quit the Lakers after more than two decades with the team, and began several weeks of therapy, multiple people familiar with the matter said. She gave her notice on Dec. 18, 2017, the same day Kobe Bryant’s two jerseys were retired.

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