Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson stepped down from his role as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations after just two years. Johnson cited the NBA’s strict rules against tampering as one reason why he was stepping down. “I like to be free,” Johnson said.

Magic Johnson shocked the basketball world Tuesday night by announcing his resignation as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations.

The news came as a total surprise to fans, reporters and Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss. Following the announcement, Johnson explained to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he didn’t privately inform Buss because he was afraid that she would talk him out of it.

Conspiracy theories whizzed around the interwebs after the announcement. Predictably, some suggested that LeBron James pulled a power move and had Johnson ousted. Others suggested Buss booted Johnson but allowed the Lakers legend to “resign” to save the embarrassment of being fired.

However, Johnson’s resignation explanation seems both believable and legitimate. Magic simply wanted to be Magic.

For decades, Johnson has been known for his million dollar smile. It helped him to become one of the biggest stars in NBA history during his playing career. His affable personality also helped him become a wildly successful businessman after swapping his Converses for Christian Louboutins.

It seems the stress, restrictions, tough decisions and unrelenting criticism was simply too much to bear for Johnson. Though his magical charm likely helped the Lakers sign James, the biggest star in the league. The move did not propel the Lakers into the playoffs.

The Lakers finished the season far out of playoff contention with a record of 37-45. Considering that James had reached the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons before this season, there was plenty of fallout for the Lakers’ front office.

Heavy decisions must be made about the future of the franchise. Will Luke Walton be fired? GM Scott Pelinka? Will the team re-engage in an attempt to land New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis via trade? Which current players will return next season and who needs to call U-Haul?

Apparently Johnson wanted no part of making those decisions. He didn’t want to be the bad guy.

"I was happier when I wasn't the president," Johnson told reporters.

"Now with the fines and the tampering and the this and the that, I can't help young men who want me to help them. Or I can't tweet out. Like Russell Westbrook, that was a great feat the other day. I couldn't even tweet it out to say, 'Hey, congratulations.' If I had did that, everyone would have said, 'He's tampering.' I don't like that. I like to be free."

Now Johnson is free and it is probably for the best. His biggest job was to lure marquee talent back to the league’s marquee franchise. That mission was accomplished when James signed on the dotted line.

Johnson’s eye for talent has always been pretty suspect. If it wasn’t clear enough browsing his Twitter history before he became the Lakers’ president (such as when he called Michael Carter-Williams “the next Jason Kidd), it was clear after he surrounded King James with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. This was after he played a role in parting ways with talented, young players such as D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.

While no longer serving in the front office, it would be foolish to believe Johnson won’t continue working to help the Lakers return to glory. He’ll continue to recruit, advise and represent the Lakers’ brand as a former player whose jerseys rests high in the rafters. He’ll smile in front of the cameras and crowds. Honestly, that’s where Johnson belongs.

Dirk and D. Wade go out in style

As if it were a made-for-TV movie, NBA legends Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade both scored 30 points in the final home games of their legendary careers.

Nowitzki dropped his 30 against the Phoenix Suns. Afterwards, he announced his retirement in front of the home crowd. Though he had openly mulled playing another year, nagging injuries limited Nowitzki’s mobility, making it clear that the end was fast-approaching.

The seven-foot power forward from Würzburg, Germany helped change the game. According to ESPN’s Paul Hembekides, before Nowitzki arrived in Dallas in 1999, no seven-footer had ever made 50 three-pointers in a season. Nowitzki achieved the feat 20 times!

Nowitzki was prototype for the stretch-four. He deserves as much credit as Steph Curry for ushering the league into a place where everybody shoots the three ball, even the big guys.

Nowitzki finishes his career with averages of 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He led the Mavericks to the only championship in franchise history in 2011 and was named league MVP in 2007.

Wade racked up 30 points in a 122-99 win against the Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike Nowitzki, Wade announced his retirement before the season began. Therefore his entire season was a gigantic going away party filled with jersey swaps and celebrations.

For his career, Wade averaged 22 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He won three championships with the Miami Heat and was the NBA scoring champion in 2009.

Good luck to both guys in their retirement.

Be sure to check In the Clutch online and also follow Ishmael on Twitter @ishcreates. Subscribe to The St. Louis American’s YouTube page to see weekly sports videos starring Ishmael and Melvin Moore at youtube.com/stlamericanvideo.

Ishmael H. Sistrunk is a columnist and the website coordinator for the St. Louis American and www.stlamerican.com.

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