The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the biggest NBA franchise, and they are certainly the most popular in terms of worldwide fame. The Lakers are synonymous with success, they can boast the highest number of championships won by any franchise, an honor they share with the Boston Celtics. And as such, success is expected. So when the team performs as poorly as they did last season. Questions are asked about what exactly is going on.
The Buss family has owned the Lakers for a long time; Dr. Jerry Buss was instrumental in bringing the team to where it is today. Under his stewardship, the Lakers enjoyed incredible success, first with the Showtime Lakers and then with the Kobe Bryant era, with significant contributions from Shaquille O'Neal. His daughter Jeanie is now the controlling owner of the franchise, and despite the team winning the whole thing in 2020, questions have been raised about her inner circle.
Two of her advisors include Magic Johnson and Phil Jackson; she was even engaged to the latter for a while. And both have enjoyed roles with the Lakers' front office that they currently don't hold. As such, with people wondering what their roles are, Buss cleared it up in an interview with The Athletic.
When I lean on Magic Johnson (who abruptly resigned as president of basketball operations in April 2019), when I lean on Phil Jackson (the former Lakers coach and former fiancé of Jeanie’s), that’s advice that I’m getting for me in my decision-making process. It’s not that Magic is making a decision on who we’re going to hire as coach. It’s not that Phil is telling me who to hire as coach.
"It’s talking about process, talking about experience, what happened when you approached a problem like this. These are just people (she trusts). Everybody has them, those people in your life that you trust, you believe in (and) that you know are going to give you a straight answer, (and) that there is no separate agenda when they’re talking to you."
She went on to explain that she has lost many people in her life that she used to lean on, naming her father and former NBA Commissioner David Stern among them. She also mentioned Kobe Bryant, whose passing she recently lamented in this context.
"(You know) that they’re going to give it to you straight. (Late NBA commissioner) David Stern was also a person that I would lean on. And of course, (late Lakers legend) Kobe Bryant. So, unfortunately, I don’t have my dad any longer, Kobe, David Stern, these voices (who) were really important to me. And, you know, I’m sure if people sit in my chair, they would do the same thing.
"They would call upon people in their life that have been consistent and straightforward and aren’t afraid to tell them, ‘You’re off course here.’ (It’s) those people that aren’t just saying, ‘yes,’ to say ‘yes’ and get you out the door, people that are trusted to me. But are they running the Lakers? No. I’m running the Lakers. But if people want to know who I go to and talk to, I have my circle of people that I trust."
This is an understandable answer from the Lakers owner, it is hard to find people to trust at that level. Johnson and Jackson have both been Lakers legends during their tenures with the team, so they will always be around to provide whatever advice they can. Ultimately though, the Lakers need to make some big decisions soon if they're going to seriously compete for a title next season.