Magic Johnson is stepping down from his job as Lakers’ president of basketball operations, in part because of his desire to mentor athletes like Ben Simmons, he said in a Tuesday night news conference.
Johnson and Simmons found themselves in the middle of a firestorm in January after Johnson told reporters that Simmons wanted to meet with the Hall of Fame player and renowned businessman in the upcoming offseason to talk about how Johnson succeeded as a big guard.
“He reached out to me, not to me directly, to the Lakers, to find out if we can get together this summer,” said Johnson, who the Lakers drafted with the first overall pick in 1979. “I said, 'Hey, you’d have to clear it with the league. Everybody. The Sixers sign off. We sign off. The league sign off that nothing is going on.”
Both NBA officials and Sixers GM Elton Brand both reportedly vetoed the two meeting because of the abnormal nature of a team executive meeting with another team’s player. Johnson had been fined for tampering — interfering with another team’s player — in the past, including making comments about the Lakers wanting Paul George two years ago.
On Tuesday, Johnson said the situation with Simmons “hurt him," and that he wanted to mentor athletes like Simmons, as well as Serena Williams and Dwyane Wade.
“I love working with guys, so now this summer, I get to work with Ben Simmons with no strings and no handcuffs on me, if he wants me to work with him,” Johnson said. “I like that role better. I’m a big brother type.”
Simmons would likely be free to work out with Johnson now that he’s out of the Lakers’ organization.
“Trying to learn from somebody like that would be huge. Getting speak to him - he’s had to play the 5 and win a championship - and he’s in the Hall of Fame,” Simmons said in January. “In terms of what position, I’m in, a 6-10 point guard, I think it would help.”