When former Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “First Take” to give his side of what led to his abrupt resignation, he painted a less than flattering picture of general manager Rob Pelinka, who he named as the person who’d been spreading rumors and “backstabbing” him during their time together. And while Pelinka certainly deserves a lion’s share of the blame for the disarray the Lakers currently find themselves in, Johnson reportedly isn’t the bubbly, fun-loving person behind the scenes that he makes himself out to be.
In Baxter Holmes’ feature for ESPN breaking down the chaos inside the Lakers front office, one particularly alarming story stands out. Johnson, the story goes, called a “longtime female staffer” into his office in 2017 after she made a mistake involving scheduling a car service that would take a draft prospect to the Lakers facility.
“I don’t stand for mistakes!” Johnson shouted at her. “I don’t make mistakes.”
Johnson also made clear, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, that if the staffer made one more mistake, she would be fired.
In the office, the staffer apologized and later, off site, began to cry, according to multiple people with knowledge of the incident. In the months ahead, she would suffer increased anxiety and panic attacks. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, quit the Lakers after more than two decades with the team, and began several weeks of therapy, multiple people familiar with the matter said. She gave her notice on Dec. 18, 2017, the same day Kobe Bryant’s two jerseys were retired.
That staffer wasn’t the only one who reportedly dealt with panic attacks and heightened anxiety. An executive, speaking anonymously, said he had to start taking anti-anxiety medication because of the stress that came with working under Johnson.
“Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
We’ve had some fun combing through Holmes’ story and all of the absurdity inside of it, but these reports, the crumbling of staffers’ mental well-being, point to the actual consequences of a front office embroiled in chaos.