Magic Johnson Leaves ESPN; Was He Pushed Out by Bill Simmons?

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  • Magic Johnson, as everyone knows, is a very busy man and he doesn’t have time take ESPN’s money anymore.

    On Thursday, Johnson – also a an owner of the LA Dodgers – said that he has a “strong connection” to the sports network, but that he’s got a lot of other stuff on his plate that’ll preclude him from his role as their NBA analyst/commentator for the new season that begins Oct. 29.

    “I love ESPN,” Johnson wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role.”

    Hmm, is that really what’s going on? That’s what observers are wondering. Sports news site Deadspin.com and other sites are reporting that the problem is Johnson and co-analyst Bill Simmons didn’t get along. Simmons, the founder of the Grantland website, joined the “NBA Countdown” last season, replacing Chris Broussard.

    Now, we don’t know if you could outright call Simmons a Magic hater, but upon joining the show, he did an interview with Entertainment Weekly where he went in on the NBA legend by saying he was overbearing and was not being challenged.

    “I feel like the biggest problem the show has had over the past couple of years is that everyone was hanging on Magic’s every word,” Simmons said, portraying the former Lakers star as being surrounded by sycophants. “Nobody was challenging him.”

    Then, there’s also the matter of ESPN eliminating the “NBA Countdown” on-camera role of Michael Wilbon, who also happens to be a an old buddy of Magic’s. Supposedly Simmons had a hand in that move as well.

    OK, now that you know all that, according to the LA Times, late Thursday, Johnson and Simmons denied that there was any feud between them. Lon Rosen, Johnson’s agent, said in a statement:

    “Magic and Bill Simmons got to be very close and continue to be close. Bill Simmons and Earvin Johnson are friends…. We called Bill before the release went out.”

    Here’s what Simmons said in a statement:

    “I loved getting to know Magic these past 12 months and was saddened to hear about his decision. We genuinely liked working with one another. Last night Lon Rosen and I were already talking about other possible projects that Magic and I could do together down the road. He’s my friend. And a GREAT guy.”

    By the way, we hear that Magic and Wilbon are being replaced by Doris Burke and fired 76ers coach Doug Collins. So, unless Jalen Rose returns, or they bring in another brother, it’s possible that there won’t be any faces of color on “NBA Countdown.” Wouldn’t that be interesting and completely out of step.

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