Earvin Magic Johnson shocked the basketball world Tuesday evening after he announced he will be stepping down as the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations with immediate effect. The key takeaway from his briefing to a throng of reporters was that he wanted to be free and the job was not allowing him to appreciate and mentor basketball players without being accused of tampering.

Johnson has been in his position for two years and played a key role in helping the team sign LeBron James last summer. He had committed three years to the team to turn their fortunes around but has called time after two disappointing seasons.

The Lakers legend admitted that he was much happier when he was not the president, and his decision would have come as a shock to owner Jeanie Buss, who was not informed beforehand about Johnson’s decision to quit. He revealed he could not face her to tell her that he was leaving his position despite holding a three-hour meeting with the owner on Monday.

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson discusses the upcoming Los Angeles Lakers' season at UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, California, Sept. 20, 2018. Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

"I like to be free," Johnson told reporters ahead of Lakers’ game against Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday. "I've got a great life... what am I doing? I've got a beautiful life. I'm gonna go back to that beautiful life. I'm looking forward to it. Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, 'cause I know she's going to be sick, but I know I couldn't face her face-to-face and tell her."

Johnson spoke about his desire to mentor players all across the league and admitted that his position within the Lakers franchise did not allow him to do that. He referenced the Ben Simmons incident when he was accused of tampering, while he was also fined when he spoke about Giannis Antetokounmpo last season.

“Her [Jeanie Buss] and I have such an amazing relationship. I think that she gave me full power to do what I wanted to do. With her and me, I want to always preserve our relationship, and love her,” he added. “I think that I had more fun when I was able to be the big brother and ambassador to everybody.”

“Ben Simmons called and we went through the proper channels, and they made me look like the bad guy there even though I didn’t do anything wrong, we did everything right. I was thinking about all those times guys who wanted me to mentor them and be a part of their lives and I can’t do that," he added.

The 59-year-old revealed that apart from being available to mentor basketball players, he will now be joining Serena Williams’ advisory board as a mentor to arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. Johnson was emotional during his announcement, but smiled every time he spoke about the freedom he will have once he leaves his post as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations.

“Serena Williams called me about a week ago and asked me to mentor her and be on her advisory board, and I thought ‘yeah, I’m going to do that’,” Johnson said.

The Lakers praised Johnson and thanked him for his contribution and made it clear that he will always be part of the purple and gold family. Buss also shared her love for the Lakers legend despite not knowing about his decision until he made a public announcement.