Magic: Lakers Sale Prelude To Pistons Takeover?

Today the Lakers announced that Magic Johnson was selling his 4.5% ownership stake in the franchise.

Magic Johnson Tom Izzo

(If Magic Joins Pistons, Izzo’s down)

Johnson has owned shares of the team for over 10 years, so why is he formally breaking from the only NBA team he’s ever been associated with?

Three months ago Scott Howard-Cooper of reported that Johnson had been part of a group that had recently attempted to buy the Golden State Warriors. That opportunity fell through, but had Johnson’s partners been able to secure ownership of the team, Howard-Cooper reported, “Johnson would have sold what is believed to be a five-percent stake in the Lakers for a larger, but unknown portion, in Golden State.

Johnson also made it known on the record at that time that he was very interested in joining the Detroit Pistons organization if it meant a significant front office position combined with a possible ownership stake. (The Pistons are up for sale by Karen Davidson, wife of the late Bill Davidson.)

Here’s Johnson back in August on the opportunity to return to his home state to help oversee the Pistons:

“Some people had called me and wanted me to [know] if I’m interested in being a part of a group to own the Pistons.

Somebody back there has to be the majority owner. Be the owner. That wouldn’t be me. But if (Mike) Ilitch or somebody — you’ve got a good guy back there already in Joe Dumars. If somebody said, ‘Hey, can you come and think about helping Joe Dumars?’ then I would think about it.

“Just like the Lakers. It’s not the full [ownership]. You just get a little piece. But then you are involved in the basketball, how the decisions are made.”

More from Howard-Cooper on Johnson-to-Detroit:

Asked if he is interested in ownership or management, the current Lakers vice president said, “Either way.”

But would you have a conversation about joining the front office if it did not include an ownership stake?

“Oh, yeah,” Johnson said. “If it’s the right situation.”

At the time of those comments, Johnson stressed that formal discussions had not taken place between the two parties. The Pistons, Ilitch and Dumars have remained mum on the possibility.

But with the news of Johnson selling his stake in the Lakers today, it isn’t unreasonable to think that the former Michigan State college hoops star may soon be throwing in with his hometown* NBA team. (*Lansing’s close enough.)

Johnson’s presence, in whatever capacity, is exactly the kind of thing the Detroit NBA franchise could use in a town so affected by a downtrodden economy. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if David Stern is also gently asserting his influence to get the parties started.

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