Report: At least two staffers suffered panic attacks while working under Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson made a lasting impact on the Los Angeles Lakers in his very brief time in charge of the team’s basketball operations department, and that impact apparently led to anti-anxiety medication being prescribed to at least two people who worked under him.
As part of an explosive feature that was published on Tuesday, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes spoke with several current and former Lakers staffers about their experiences having Johnson as their boss. From the time Magic was hired in March of 2017, current and ex-team employees say the legend tried to instill fear in those working under him and immediately made it clear that anyone who was not on-board with his style could be replaced. One member of the team’s coaching staff said Johnson pointed at a stack of resumes in his office and said there were “a thousand” people waiting to replace any of his employees. The coach described it as “shocking.”
Another Lakers staffer said Johnson used “intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority.” Two employees said Johnson’s commitment to ruling with an iron fist resulted in them needing a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. One longtime female staffer said she was called into an office with Johnson and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka in 2017 after making a mistake, which involved a mix-up with arranging a car service for a draft prospect to the team’s facility. Johnson allegedly berated her.
“I don’t stand for mistakes!” he shouted. “I don’t make mistakes.”
Multiple people who witnessed the exchange told Baxter that Johnson made it clear she would be fired if she had one more slip-up. She began to cry, and she said she later suffered increased panic attacks and began taking medication and going to therapy to address the anxiety issue. She quit working for the team on Dec. 18, 2017 after more than 20 years on the job.
Another executive told Baxter he, too, needed anti-anxiety medication because of the way Johnson ran things.
“Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
Johnson had no problem pointing the finger with some candid comments he made about Pelinka recently, but it seems clear he created a toxic culture in LA during his time in charge. Judging by what those who worked under him say, it sounds like he may have stepped down too late.