Jeanie Buss gave Magic the power to do whatever he wanted with the Lakers. He either didn't want it or couldn't handle it.
LOS ANGELES -- Magic Johnson had the title he'd always wanted. He had the power to guide one of the most important franchises in sports, carte blanche.
Anything he wanted to do as President of Basketball Operations for theLos Angeles Lakers, he had the power to do. Fire the coach. Trade any player. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss told him that repeatedly.But the only thing he really wanted was to go back to being Magic Johnson.
Beloved civic leader. International celebrity. Lakers legend. Basketball ambassador.
It's awesome being that guy. And Magic Johnson is great at it.
Being president of basketball operations for the Lakers is hard. Really, really hard. And Magic Johnson never figured out how to be Magic Johnson in that role so he abruptly quit Tuesday night.
The Lakers' season is close to over. What's next?
As stunning as his decision was for everyone in the NBA, he was remarkably clear in explaining himself.
"I was happier when I wasn't the president," Johnson said. "When you gotta make trades, you're not happy."
Johnson enumerated all sorts of unsavory things about the job during an hour-long media session that spilled out into the hallways and corridors of Staples Center before the Lakers' final game of the season.
He didn't like: "The backstabbing, the whispering. I don't like that. I don't like a lot of things that went on that didn't have to go on.
"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. LikeRussell 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."
He really didn't like having to make the decision on whether to retain embattled coach Luke Walton.
Magic Johnson spent a little more than two years as the Lakers' president before abruptly resigning on Tuesday. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
"She gave me the power, that is the same page. I could have done anything I wanted to, tomorrow. But I decided to step down," he said.
But what he really didn't seem to like was the negativity he has faced this season. Negativity he couldn't charm his way out of.
There aren't many situations in life that Magic Johnson hasn't been able to charm, compete or fight his way out of. The ones he couldn't -- talk-show host, Lakers coach and now Lakers president -- he got away from quickly.
Who needs it?
Magic Johnson stared death in the face when he was diagnosed with the HIV virus in 1991 and decided he was going to beat it. And he did. So then he decided that whatever was left of his life, he was going to spend exactly as he wanted to. As he said, "I got a great life. Damn, I got a great life outside of this. What the ff ... what am I doing? I got a beautiful life. I'm going back to that beautiful life. I'm looking forward to it."
That's a beautiful sentiment.
But it was also a cruel thing to do to a woman he considers to be family.