Over and Back: That time Magic Johnson demanded a trade

INGLEWOOD, CA - 1990: Magic Johnson
INGLEWOOD, CA - 1990: Magic Johnson /

Just a little over a year after winning an NBA championship in his rookie year, Magic Johnson publicly demanded a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 18, 1981. In the latest episode of the Over and Back Classic NBA Podcast, Jason Mann and Rich Kraetsch discuss what led up to the trade demand, the feud between Magic and Lakers coach Paul Westhead, how Johnson was vilified by fans and media during the time, and how the situation was resolved.

We talk about Magic and new Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss helping establish Showtime in L.A., how their close relationship upset the other Lakers players, how Westhead took over for Showtime architect Jack McKinney, an awkward Sports Illustrated photoshoot, the Lakers winning the 1980 championship, a disappointing 1981 season and playoff loss to the Rockets, Johnson’s 25-year, $25 million contract, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seeking a trade to New York, how things went sour between Johnson and Westhead, the coach finally being fired, massive confusion between Buss, Jerry West and Pat Riley over who exactly would be the next coach, how Johnson would be reviled for a time before leading the Lakers to another championship, and how Westhead completely changed his style and become known as the Guru of Go.

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