This year ESPN has centered their NBA studio coverage around Magic Johnson. Johnson's star power and close relationship with the Lakers and Los Angeles has been a focal point throughout the season. ESPN's main NBA studio was even moved to Magic's backyard in LA at the beginning of the year so he could appear as an analyst for the whole season.
Magic Johnson was a great player, he's a great businessman, and he has a great story to share. However, he has never been a great television analyst. The unorthodox format to ESPN's studio show, with no traditional host and four analysts, hasn't helped matters. Magic's name recognition definitely outweighs what he brings to the table, whether it be breaking down a game or heaven forbid doing highlights.
In his analyst duties this weekend though, Magic walked into a quagmire of his own making with comments aimed towards current Lakers head coach Mike Brown. However, it wasn't just those comments that raised eyebrows, it was the massive conflicts exposed by them and the tough spot both he and ESPN are in with his work at the network.
After a Game 6 loss to the Nuggets in their first round series, Magic said Friday night Lakers head coach Mike Brown would be fired if Los Angeles lost Game 7 at home as told by the LA Times:
"They're going to run Mike Brown first out of town," Johnson said as an ESPN NBA analyst Friday. "Then second will be [Andrew] Bynum. Then third will be [Pau] Gasol."
"His job will go," Johnson said. "The Lakers are about championships. That's what the Lakers are about. If they lose this game, Mike Brown, I bet you, will not be sitting there."
That would be quite a strong prediction for any analyst regarding any team in the league, but Magic Johnson has never been just any old analyst, especially when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson was a player, a coach, and from 1994-2010 had an ownership stake in the team, reported to be at 4.5%. When Johnson sold his stake in the team, he proclaimed himself to be a "Laker for life." But wait, that's not all! Even though he doesn't own part of the team anymore, Johnson is still a Lakers Vice President.
Perhaps Johnson's role seems only ceremonial these days, but that's not what the Lakers themselves say about Magic's position with the team. A look at the Lakers Media Guide for 2011-2012 shows Magic Johnson listed in the program before any Lakers executive except Owner Jerry Buss. According to Johnson's bio in the media guide, he works closely with GM Mitch Kupchak and is "actively involved in various management areas"...