Magic Johnson’s first missed opportunity with the Lakers

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Twitter is just getting back to normal after the news of Magic Johnson being named President of Basketball Operations of the Los Angeles Lakers set it ablaze yesterday afternoon. But less than 24 hours later, Johnson has already made the first controversial decision in his tenure as team president. Earlier today it was announced that the only name rumored for the role of new general manager, super agent Rob Pelinka, would be the one to land the job.

Pelinka, a graduate of the University of Michigan and a teammate of the infamous Fab 5, has built a nice stable of clients since becoming a sports agent in 2003 — including the recently retired Lakers great Kobe Bryant. Pelinka’s relationship with Bryant probably made it possible for him to be a candidate for the role and there is nothing wrong with him getting an interview but many have found it hard to believe that he was the best man for the job.

Marc Spears of The Undefeated wrote today that there were plenty of black execs wondering why a person of color wasn’t even considered?

“We just want to compete. Guys with practical basketball experience, that’s what it’s about. Don’t give me anything. We just want to compete,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said.

While there are only three black general managers in the NBA — Dell Demps of the New Orleans Pelicans, Stive Mills of the New York Knicks, and Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors —  there are plenty of blacks that fill other roles with teams in the NBA qualifying them for a conversation with Johnson if nothing more.

Are people asking Magic for the hood hookup, no, but when you consider the fact that Pelinka has no previous team management experience, one has to wonder what was the real reason behind the hiring? Was this was a form of nepotism in order to entice Bryant into make that leap to Lakers management sooner than later or was it just a matter of Johnson feeling the most comfortable with Pelinka?

For some, this has been seen as the wrong time to play the “race card” but too often that card is played in reverse. You have whites in positions of influence that bypass talented blacks (and women) in favor of less qualified candidates simply because they share the same skin pigmentation.

Pelinka could end up doing a great job in the role but Magic missed an opportunity to do something that rarely happens in upper management of the sports world —  give an assist to someone who looks like him.

 

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