October 18, 2010
Usually when a part-owner sells what was reported to be 5 to 10 percent of an NBA team, it's not really much of a news story. And if everything on the surface here is correct, there might not be much more to this story than meets the eye.
But when the part-owner is Magic Johnson, and the team is the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers (a team Magic won five titles with as a player), things get intriguing.
Johnson sold his stake in the Lakers on Monday to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong for an undisclosed price. Here is part of the statement that announced the sale on the Lakers website:
"After heavy deliberation and a weighing heart, I have decided to sell my share of the Lakers to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Dr. Soon-Shiong is a super Lakers fan, an outstanding businessman, a dedicated philanthropist and one of the most active community leaders in Los Angeles," said Johnson. "I am truly humbled to have been a Lakers player for 13 years and an owner for over 10 years. I thank [Lakers majority owner] Dr. Buss from the deepest part of my heart and soul for allowing me such an incredible opportunity. I will continue to work alongside Dr. Buss, Jeanie Buss and Mitch Kupchak in their efforts to continually build and maintain the best NBA franchise in the league. This was a bittersweet business decision made on behalf of my family and myself, and I want to assure all the wonderful and loyal Lakers fans that my decision will in no way affect my dedication and support for the Los Angeles Lakers. I am and will always be a Laker for life."
Johnson is a successful businessman in his own right, so while it wouldn't be the strangest thing in the world if he needed some quick cash in this economy, musing aloud about his financial doings might not be the most fruitful exercise. But what if this sale were a prelude to something a bit more basketball-related?
He expressed interest last month in taking a significant role in a group attempting to buy the Detroit Pistons led by Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. Ilitch's group hasn't publicly made any connection with Johnson.
You can't own part of the Lakers if you're going to try to hook on as a GM for another team. And you can't own parts of two teams at once. So unless Magic needs the money, jumping ship from the only team that has ever known him seems a little pointless, no? But if he's doing it to put together an investment group to buy a team, or to toss his hat into the ring as a GM (as has been rumored for years), then it makes complete and total sense.
Complete and total sense for everyone but the team trying to hire Magic Johnson as a GM -- as we've learned in the cases behind Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Michael Jordan -- that is.
Hat tip to CBSSports.com.