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Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson has described this season’s performance by the Los Angeles Lakers as “disappointing” and “the worst we’ve probably ever had in Laker history”.

Led by the 37 years LeBron James, the current squad were expected to win their division and challenge for the 2022 NBA title, having won the championship in 2020.

However, they lost 49 of their 82 games and failed to make the play-offs.

Johnson told BBC Sport the Lakers’ final league position was unacceptable.

“We’re very disappointed here in Los Angeles. All Laker fans around the world are disappointed,” said Johnson, who won five NBA titles at the Lakers in the 1980s.

“This is the worst season we probably ever had in Laker history.

“When you have four Hall of Famers, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook (there) is no way you should miss the play-offs. So it’s a disappointing season.”

‘We need to play winning basketball’
Following a below-par season the Lakers sacked Frank Vogel as their head coach. The 48-year-old had spent three years in charge of the franchise and had led them to a title in 2020.

The Lakers are the joint-most successful team in NBA history, having won 17 championships. A record they share with the Boston Celtics.

And Johnson says whoever takes over needs to quickly try to re-establish that winning mentality.

“We need to get back [to] being focused on winning, to play winning basketball. So hopefully next season, they’ll bounce back and head in the right direction,” the 62-year old said.

Although LeBron James – playing his 19th year in the league – had his best season in terms of scoring, averaging 30.3 points per game, the team around him failed to deliver on early season expectations.

James, now aged 37, missed 26 games through injury. The teams’ second best player, Anthony Davis, also faced lengthy periods on the sidelines.

Acquired in the summer from the Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook failed to have the impact many expected the former league Most Valuable Player (MVP) would have.

They Call Me Magic
Considered by many to be one of basketball’s greatest players, Johnson was speaking as he launched his new Apple TV documentary series, They Call Me Magic.

The four-part series focuses on his rise from high-school talent to college champion and NBA superstar. It features appearances from basketball great Michael Jordan, former Lakers coach Pat Riley and former US president Barack Obama.

Johnson explained he felt the timing was right to tell his story to a whole new generation.

“After Michael Jordan The Last Dance [TV documentary], people started calling me and saying, ‘We want to see your doc, we want to see the story about your life’.

“And so that’s how it happened. We wanted to capture those great moments, high, high moments of my life, but also the low moments as well,” Johnson said.

There is a statue of Johnson outside the Los Angeles Lakers home stadium. An icon of the city, his career was cut short after he was diagnosed with HIV in 1991.

After publicly announcing he had the virus, he became a spokesperson for it, helping to raise awareness and combat misconceptions about how it can be contracted.

“[It was a] tough time when I announced I had HIV,” he said. “And here I am living 30 years later, which I thought would never happen when we first announced it.”

Johnson made a return to basketball twice after his diagnosis. But the tenures with the Lakers were short-lived because of stigma surrounding HIV at the time and the reaction from players in the league.

“I mean, these are, they were tough moments, and emotional moments. And then when you start thinking about them again, you get emotional, right?

“But it’s a part of life, and my journey.”

Johnson rekindled his love affair with the Lakers when he joined their management team in 2017. Although he vacated his role as Lakers’ president of basketball operations in April 2019.

Now a successful businessman and entrepreneur, he says he wants his legacy to be remembered for the work he did on and off the court.


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