If one legendary former Laker returning to help the franchise is good, more is better, right? That seems to be the belief held by Magic Johnson, who said Monday that he’d love to add Kobe Bryant to the team’s front office.
Johnson himself was installed earlier this month as an adviser to Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss. While his vague-yet-expansive job description — “advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success,” according to the team’s news release — leaves questions about how much power Johnson wields, he said that if he had his way, he’d immediately reach out to a fellow five-time champion.
“First call I make if I’m in charge? Kobe Bryant,” Johnson said on ESPN. “Because Kobe understands winning. He understands, also, these players. And so, I would call [and say], ‘What role you want, bro? If you’ve got a day, just give me that day.’ ”
“Whatever time he has,” Johnson added, “I want him to come and be a part of it.”
Johnson was speaking with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take,” and Smith also spoke recently with Bryant on his radio show. In that conversation, the 18-time all-star, in his first year of retirement, said (via Lakers Nation), “I’m always around behind the scenes for Jeanie, Jimmy and the entire Buss family if they need assistance or if it be to reach out or call for advice and things of that nature.
“Now, being front and center about it, it’s not something that is really my cup of tea. I’d rather be behind the scenes and focus on the content I’m creating because that’s where my passion truly lies, but the Buss family knows that I’m always a phone call away.”
Having indicated that he would be willing to pitch in, at least on a part-time basis, with the job of reviving the Lakers, Bryant could play an important role as a goodwill ambassador, if nothing else. He is beloved by the team’s fan base, as is Johnson, of course, and would represent a helpful reminder of glory days while the franchise is going through a rare protracted slump.
That lack of success adds to the questions about the level of influence Johnson will hold, as the Lakers have slid to the NBA’s basement since winning their most recent NBA title in 2010. The nose-dive, with the team in the midst of a post-Bryant youth movement, has come under the stewardship of Jimmy Buss, a co-owner and the head of basketball operations, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak.
Johnson made it clear that he wants to be the one to “call the shots” in an interview last week with USA Today. “Right now I’m advising,” he said, when asked what role he expects to have with the Lakers. “I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be? So, we’ll see what happens.’’
It’s not clear that, if he came aboard, the famously imperious Bryant would be satisfied with merely providing some input, either. However, in the same vein, he could likely be counted on to have a very unsentimental view of the team’s roster. If a coldblooded move is needed to get the Lakers back on the winning track, Johnson might be smart in tapping the “Black Mamba” to make it.