One of the stigmas and perceptions that’s followed LeBron James throughout much of his career is that he wields unilateral power in the front office and on the bench. James was often referred to as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pseudo general manager and head coach.
He heads into a first season with a Los Angeles Lakers organization that’s powered by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. They make up an inexperienced but effective front office.
Johnson’s meeting with James at the outset of free agency is lauded as a significant moment to securing a commitment from the 14-time All-Star. And with James now in the fold, the Hall-of-Fame point guard is going to be certain to lean on him.
In large part because it’s the same respect Johnson was provided during his days leading the Lakers. “It’s not about influence,” he answered on a conference call when asked about how much James’ opinion will factor into potential signings and/or trades.
“It’s about sitting down with the world’s greatest player and picking his brain. Just like when I was playing. Dr. Buss and Jerry West would come to me when they were thinking about making moves.
“They’d say, ‘Hey, who do you think can help us that we can get?’ So I would always give out a couple names. And then Jerry West was making his decision with Dr. Buss. And so it’s going to be the same way here. We’re going to go to LeBron and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this guy? You know him. You play against him. You know the backstories and everything about the guy.’
“That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s why you have guys who are superstars in the league. You want to have a line of communication and you want to know what they’re thinking.”
Johnson noted the Lakers have already sought James’ opinion. The team thus far has re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, plus signed Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. “He’s done an excellent job of giving us great feedback. And we will continue to do that,” Johnson said.
But while James’ voice will undeniably carry weight, he won’t be the driving force behind personnel moves.
“The ultimate decision-maker on who we bring in is me,” Johnson said. “And then I take that to Jeanie and see what she says, whether she signs off on it or not.”
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