LeBron James was stunned to learn of Magic Johnson's decision to step down as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations, a source with knowledge of James' thinking told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne on Wednesday.
But despite Johnson's abrupt resignation, James stands behind Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and the organization, the source told Shelburne.
The team is still assessing Johnson's decision, but general manager Rob Pelinka will stay in his job, and, if anything, his power will grow, sources told Shelburne.
Johnson sent shockwaves through the Lakers franchise Tuesday night when, in a teary-eyed announcement before the team's season finale, he announced his "difficult decision."
Johnson said he had not informed Buss or Pelinka of his decision before talking to reporters. He later told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that he didn't tell Buss first because he was afraid she would have talked him out of it.
Johnson took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to thank Buss, Pelinka, coach Luke Walton and the rest of the Lakers franchise.
Thank you to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, General Manager Rob Pelinka, Coach Luke Walton, the Lakers players & the entire basketball operations staff for the tremendous opportunity to serve as the President of Basketball Operations for the @Lakers. I will always be a Laker for life.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 10, 2019
A big thank you to Jesse Buss, Joey Buss, Ryan West, Sam Usher, Marshall Rader, and Elaine Shen.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 10, 2019
I have the best assistant in the world, Natalie Wilson. Thank you Natalie Wilson, Shane Jenkins, and Desiree LeSassier for working with me for many years and joining me at the Lakers.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 10, 2019
Another big thank you to Lakers Executive Linda Rambis and her husband, Laker great, Kurt Rambis.— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 10, 2019
"I know, moving forward, Magic will probably be around still, because he's a part of this franchise," Lakers center Tyson Chandler said Wednesday. "It will always be just the Kobes, the Shaqs, the Jerry Wests ... go on down the list of all these great ones. I still have confidence that this organization is heading in the right direction and will be heading in the right direction, because they have all the pieces to do so. It is just about who is going to be driving [the] ship, I guess, at this point."
League sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Johnson and Pelinka visited with James and his agent, Rich Paul, on Saturday. Sources told ESPN that Paul also met Wednesday with Buss, Pelinka and Linda Rambis, who is the Lakers' manager of special projects.
Johnson offered no indication that he was on the brink of leaving the team, sources said. Johnson said he did not tell James about his decision to leave before making his announcement, either.
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"It did shock me, like it did the rest of the world, but this is what's best for him," said Lonzo Ball, who was Johnson's first draft pick at No. 2 overall in 2017. "Wish him the best. ... This is better for his life, and that's what he wants to do, and [I] support [him] 100 percent."
Added Chandler: "Everybody is entitled to do things at their own time and in their own way, especially somebody like Magic. I honestly didn't question it one bit. ... To me, it's business. He made a business, and sounds like a personal, decision."
The Lakers finished the season 37-45 and went 35-47 last season, putting the job security of Walton, the third-year coach, in jeopardy. The team has not made the playoffs since 2013.
Walton participated in exit meetings with players Wednesday, sources told Shelburne. He has two years remaining on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, a source told Wojnarowski.
When asked by Nichols if he was preparing to let Walton go, Johnson said, "Yeah, I was preparing to make that decision."