Magic Johnson is nothing if not punctual.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations sat in a car for an hour outside LeBron James’ Southern California home on the night of June 30 before the NBA’s free agency period opened.
The meeting started promptly at 9:01 p.m. PT, and the next day, James announced that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign with the Lakers.
Johnson told Spectrum SportsNet on Tuesday of his talk with James, “We had a great time of going back and forth, here we are, two guys, similar. Both from the Midwest. Both grew up poor. Both love to compete. Both love to win, and I think both excel at the highest level. We connected right when I walked in the door. Just two guys that talk free to each other, and talk basketball, and that’s what I love about LeBron.”
James didn’t need to be sold on the Lakers, according to Johnson.
“He already knew the team. Almost better than I did,” Johnson said. “He broke the roster down right in front of me. ‘Kuz likes to do this, so and so likes ... oh I can’t wait, this guy is this.’ I was like, man, he knows the entire roster. Loves (coach Luke Walton’s) system. He said Earvin, you know, I just want to come and be able to just play basketball and be me. And you have the type of roster, I think, that I think I can do that.”
In the same Spectrum SportsNet interview, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka detailed how he learned the franchise-changing news that James was joining the club.
“I was outside around 4 or 4:30 p.m. (on July 1), saying, ‘I wonder when we’re going to find out the answer?’ because LeBron and his camp was meeting with another team that day,” Pelinka said. “At about 5 p.m., I got a text from LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and the text just said ‘Congrats.’ And it had balloons.
“It was one of those moments in life you’ll never, ever forget. Everything went into slow motion. ‘Does this mean what I think it means?’ He called seconds later with the official news.”
—Field Level Media