Basketball

Magic Johnson steps down as LA Lakers chief

Lakers' Hall of Famer says he did not enjoy his job; Wade & Nowitzki sign-off

Magic Johnson announced his resignation as Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations yesterday morning (Singapore time) at an impromptu news conference before the team's regular-season finale.

Johnson, a Hall of Famer from his playing days with the Lakers, said he is stepping down after a two-year reign because he had been wearied by the responsibilities of his position and that he had not enjoyed the process of hiring and firing personnel.

"Today, I'm going to step down as the president," the 59-year-old said.

"Tomorrow I would have to affect someone's livelihood and his life, and I thought about that. That's not fun for me. That's not who I am. I was happier when I wasn't the president."

His announcement came on the heels of an ESPN report that he and Lakers coach Luke Walton have not spoken for weeks.

Johnson said team owner Jeanie Buss had not been told of his decision in advance.

"Buss and I have such an amazing relationship," Johnson said.

"She gave me full power to do what I wanted to do, but I want to always preserve our relationship. I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and the ambassador to everybody. I had more fun on the other side than on this side.

"She doesn't know I'm standing here because I know I would be crying like a baby in front of her, even though I'm about to cry now."

About the day-to-day NBA business, Johnson added: "What I didn't like is the backstabbing and the whispering. I don't like a lot of things that went on that didn't have to go on.

"I hope that after (the season ends), the Lakers can head in the right direction, which we are. Injuries really hurt us, but I enjoyed working with Jeanie."

The Lakers, meanwhile, paid tribute to Johnson in a brief statement.

"There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson," the team said.

"We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise, as a player, an ambassador and an executive."

The day continued to be disappointing for the Lakers, who were defeated 101-104 by the Portland Trail Blazers.

The loss meant that the 16-time NBA champions concluded their season with a 37-45 record, missing the play-offs for the sixth straight season.

STARS BID FAREWELL

Elsewhere, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and beloved Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki also bade emotional farewells to the NBA yesterday.

While Wade's last home game for the Heat had been planned, Nowitzki finally confirmed his exit only yesterday after 21 seasons with Dallas.

"Wow, I'm a little overwhelmed... As you guys might expect, this is my last home game," Nowitzki told the sell-out crowd at the American Airlines Center, after the Mavericks' 120-109 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

"I've put you guys on a hell of a ride with a lot of ups and downs and you guys always stuck with me and supported me, and I appreciate it."

The 40-year-old German is the most successful European to grace the NBA, ranking sixth on the all-time scorers list with 31,540 points.

There was a similarly heartfelt send-off in Miami, where the Heat were eliminated from play-off contention despite beating the Philadelphia 76ers 122-99.

"I love y'all, man," Wade, the 37-year-old three-time NBA champion, told the crowd at the American Airlines Arena after scoring 30 points in the loss.

"I thank you guys for dancing with me this year. I thank y'all for your patience this year. I thank y'all for the love." - AFP, REUTERS

OTHER RESULTS: Cleveland 97 Charlotte 124, Detroit 100 Memphis 93, Washington 110 Boston 116, Chicago 86 New York 96, Minnesota 100 Toronto 120, New Orleans 103 Golden State 112, Utah 118 Denver 108, Oklahoma City 112 Houston 111

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