The Lakers hired Magic Johnson this week to be their president of basketball operations. (Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)
ESPN host Dan Le Batard has flippantly accused others of racism throughout his career. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s glorious.
On his radio show Thursday, Le Batard lambasted the Lakers for naming Magic Johnson president of basketball operations. In his opinion, Johnson doesn’t have the credentials for the job.
“What you’ve got here, though, is a testament to the power of fame. And a testament to the power of a modicum of charm, because Magic Johnson is charming,” Le Batard said. “But Magic Johnson was given a late-night television show because he’s famous and charming. Failed in 11 shows. Magic Johnson was given a head coaching job of the Lakers because he’s famous and charming. Failed in 16 games. Magic Johnson, not interesting as a broadcaster, given broadcasting opportunity after broadcasting opportunity, because he’s famous and charming.
“And now, he gets to run the entire Lakers organization because he’s famous and charming. But he wasn’t good at any of those jobs I just mentioned, and he got all of those jobs, bypassing a whole lot of people who are more qualified, because he’s famous and charming.”
That’s a reasonable position for Le Batard to hold, considering Johnson doesn’t have any significant basketball front office experience. He’s a part of the Dodgers’ ownership group in MLB, but doesn’t appear to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the club.
Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, however, has a different view. He defended the Lakers’ decision to hire Magic Johnson, and condemned Le Batard for disparaging the NBA great.
“I can’t tolerate this dude! I can’t tolerate him saying these things about Magic Johnson because his facts are completely wrong!” he said. “He got a talk show coming out of the NBA because they were trying a late-night talk show with African-Americans, and he’s a guy in the city of LA who everyone liked. The talk show business is hard! How many people fail at it?”
Later in the segment, Keyshawn Johnson suggested Le Batard’s comments were racially motivated.
“I’m going to read between the lines, I’m going to read between the lines on this one,” he said. “To me, he saying because he’s a black dude, that’s the way I look at it.”
Keyshawn Johnson’s co-host, Jorge Sedano, who’s worked with Le Batard in Miami, tried to defend the ex-newspaper scribe. But then one of Magic Johnson’s former teammates, Mychal Thompson, called in and pushed back against Sedano.
“Sedano, you’re pissing me off. You gotta stop defending this Le Batard,” the ex-Lakers center said. “How dare he question Magic’s credentials and qualifications, when this man is a basketball genius. What does he want? … That ticked me off when I heard that, I’m with you, Key, that was some kind of veiled racist comment there.”
Le Batard didn’t only take a beating on Keyshawn Johnson’s radio show. “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon sent out a series of tweets Thursday, accusing Le Batard of misrepresenting Magic Johnson’s post-career resume.
Since officially retiring from the NBA in 1996, Magic Johnson has taken part in a number of business ventures. His entertainment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a net worth of $700 million. Magic Johnson did coach the Lakers at the end of the 1993-94 season, finishing with a 5-11 record.