The First Take co-host took to his radio show to vent over the awkward position ESPN.com placed him in by releasing an article detailing former Los Angeles Lakers employees’ displeasure working under Johnson on the same day he and the former college and pro basketball superstar were set to work together on an NBA Finals special.
“I am forced to address yet the latest story about the dysfunctional franchise known as the Los Angeles Lakers… I got better things to do with my damn time—better things to do,” Smith barked at the camera.
“I wake up this morning, minding my own damn business, getting set to do my job and talk about these NBA Finals. … But obviously, I’d have to take a moment because ESPN.com decides to come out with a story on the day that Magic and the crew will be here.”
Smith went on to sarcastically plug the story while criticizing its premise that Johnson was too tough on employees as the team’s president of basketball operations.
“Supposedly, people had anxiety—I mean, stop the presses!” Smith shouted. “Magic Johnson was tyrannical as a boss, that’s basically the picture they’re trying to paint. … Magic Johnson might have been a bit hard-core as a businessman. Stop the presses!”
He continued, “He had an attitude? He wasn’t pleasant to work for? That smile wasn’t always there? He was demanding and wouldn’t tolerate mistakes? OH MY GOD! LET’S GET THE AXE!”
The sports anchor praised the article’s author for spending time on the well-written piece but continued to question its timing.
“A story comes out. Baxter Holmes—reporter, senior writer on the NBA for ESPN, by the way—does an outstanding job and did an outstanding job with this story. There’s nothing missing here. But he wrote this big exposé, working on it for two years. And there’s a lot to deduce from it because we don’t want to take away from his work. He did his job. Do I like the fact that I have to deal with it today? Hell no. I’m quite annoyed by it. That’s neither here nor there. I’m a big boy. I can take it.”
Fortunately, the show went off without a hitch, and Johnson tweeted that he had a great time with Smith and the ESPN family.
Johnson also addressed claims that he essentially bullied and intimidated Lakers staff, saying he would have been called out and reported to human resources if those accusations were accurate.