“I Want to Leave”: A Year After Signing $25 Million Contract, Magic Johnson Openly Demanded a Trade in 1981

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Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers are synonymous with one another. The level guard spent his whole profession with the franchise and led them to 5 championships. However, a little-known reality is that he needed to go away the crew in 1981.

Johnson had signed a twenty-five-year, $25 million extension with the franchise in 1981 offseason to commit his whole profession to the Lakers. But, solely 5 months later, he was fed up with head coach Paul Westhead‘s techniques and publicly demanded an exit from the crew. After the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 113-110, Johnson instructed the media,

“I can’t play right here anymore. I need to go away. I need to be traded.”

Johnson was requested if coach Westhead was the rationale he needed to exit the franchise, and he didn’t mince phrases, saying,

Yeah. We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues. It’s time for me to go.” 

The level guard was allegedly miffed in regards to the Lakers’ slow-paced offense, which catered to middle Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Johnson needed a fast-paced offense and to use his ball-handling abilities and court docket imaginative and prescient. However, the coach refused to change techniques, irking the purpose guard.

Lakers proprietor Jerry Buss didn’t waste any time in showcasing the place his loyalty lay. He fired Westhead and promoted assistant Pat Riley to the pinnacle teaching function. Buss claimed firing Westhead wasn’t prompted by Johnson’s commerce demand. He mentioned,

”Obviously it was a tough choice for us. There is not any approach to criticize anyone. I used to be disillusioned in not seeing an thrilling crew as soon as once more. This began after the primary or second sport.” 

Although Buss claimed the firing motive to be completely different, it was abundantly clear why the Lakers had parted methods with their head coach. Notably, all of the chatter surrounding Westhead’s firing shortly disappeared because the Lakers dominated on the court docket and gained the NBA title in Riley’s first yr as the pinnacle coach. He spent eight extra seasons with the franchise, led them to 5 extra NBA Finals appearances and three extra titles.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sheds mild on Paul Westhead’s firing

The Lakers gained the NBA title in 1980 on the again of rookie Magic Johnson and famous person middle Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s potential to get one of the best out of one another’s distinctive talent units. However, after the purpose guard missed 45 video games in the 1980-81 season, coach Westhead needed to construct an offensive gameplan that labored even in Johnson’s absence. In his Substack, Kareem defined,

“The Lakers have been used to outrunning groups and Magic was a key a part of that technique as a result of he had an uncanny intuitiveness about when to drive and when to go…. We have been much less choreographed and extra like jazz, anticipating one another’s strikes, studying the physique motion, reacting to the notes the opposite was enjoying… “Paul had a extra methodical, tactical method. He added extra set performs that stifled Magic’s spontaneity and killed our fast-break benefit.”

Kareem mentioned the Lakers had no alternative however to fireplace their head coach to preserve their 22-year-old famous person completely satisfied.

Choosing Johnson over Westhead was the proper transfer. He performed a pivotal function in serving to the franchise win 4 extra titles.

Riley’s fast-paced offense centered round Johnson’s playmaking talents produced probably the most entertaining basketball ever. Their quick breaks, alley-oops, and dunks turned legendary and nearly unimaginable to include. Jerry Buss’ choice to aspect with Johnson birthed the Showtime Lakers and a dynasty in contrast to another in NBA historical past.

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