Thinking about those tweets.
Photo: Harry How (Getty Images)

In the event that you’re offered the job of running the Los Angeles Lakers, you would do well to consider the pros and cons. The salary is almost certainly better than what you currently earn—as you are reading this website, I am assuming that “you” are an attorney of some kind—and you get to live in Los Angeles, which is pretty excellent during the moments when it is not catching on fire and better than easily a third of NBA cities even when it is. The franchise itself has been stymied and mostly quite shitty for half a decade, for reasons that vary widely but are mostly self-inflicted. But they are also the Lakers and as such are both a big deal and a big deal even when they’re bad. No one would blame you if you decided to take that job. What, you want to do document review and write briefs for another few decades? Go sign David Nwaba or something, have some fun!

If we swap you out for Magic Johnson, who is one of the greatest players in the history of both this league and this particular franchise, you might feel compelled to take the job. He loves the team and was clearly thinking about ways to improve it even though it wasn’t really his job to do so. This was obvious because Johnson would sometimes take breaks from his active semi-retirement to post his extremely pure thoughts about how to do this on Twitter.

But there were also compelling reasons for Magic Johnson not to take the job. Foremost among these is that Johnson is secure enough that he doesn’t really need to take any job, and because anyone who goes into an office and attends meetings and answers email while not strictly having to do so is some kind of freaky sicko. There are also the many stresses that come with being a boss, which is tied with not-being-a-boss for the worst type of job that a person can have. Magic took the job anyway, but when he abruptly quit in early April it was reportedly because of the stresses that came with being the boss—not just possibly having to fire people he liked or work with people he maybe didn’t like, but the other less overt ways that having a job imposes various obligations up and down a person’s life. Because the NBA is the way it is, certain things that Magic had done just done because he is Magic Johnson—things like earnestly and excitedly praising basketball players he thinks are cool—resulted in serious and totally literal tampering investigations by the league office.

Advertisement

It was surely not the only reason that Magic quit the gig, but he absolutely loves to do things like jump online and praise basketball players he thinks are cool, and he clearly chafed against the No Posting Online mandate that came with the gig. “I have a beautiful life,” Johnson said in announcing his decision. “And I’m going to go back to that beautiful life.” And as it happens, Posting Online is a big part of Magic Johnson’s life, and while he probably didn’t quit his job just so he could post online more frequently and vigorously, you wouldn’t know it from how vigorously and frequently he has been posting about basketball.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Not all of Magic’s Twitter feed is given over to these Perd Hapley–grade observations, naturally. You get the odd mention of the (very frequent) speaking engagements he does, or brief and businesslike notes on things he has either recently done or is planning on doing.

Advertisement

More than 4,722,000 people follow Magic Johnson on Twitter, and while I can’t speak to what his other followers get out of the experience, I can tell you what I’ve enjoyed about it since Magic left one of the most prestigious executive positions in all of sports so that he could focus on not having to do that particular job. There is not a great deal of deep basketball insight to be found in the tweets that he is now free to do. They seem designed to avoid even the appearance of that. There’s a certain odd delight in learning that what’s going through the mind of the best and most brilliant playmakers in basketball history, while watching an important NBA game, is more or less “wow this is terrific basketball action,” but also there’s only so much meaning to find in Magic’s little sports koans.

Advertisement

The pleasure is not in the actual text itself, which is so airy that it can barely be said to exist. It’s in their airy and transparent ease, and their author’s. That lightness is exceedingly rare on Twitter, which consists almost entirely of people (and, lately and disconcertingly, brands) trying very hard to project and perform how happy or how angry they are. Everyone involved in all that is deranged and degraded for having done so, but that’s more or less part of the terms of use. Much of what makes Magic’s account so strangely blessed is that none of that seems to apply to him. He, who is more or less a god, posts with all the gleeful dorky comfort of a grandparent signing their name at the end of a Facebook comment.

In a troubled and troubling time, it is soothing to see someone who appears so serenely and sincerely untroubled. If Magic really did quit his demanding, stressful job so he could focus on posting these gentle and sublimely mild semi-thoughts, that decision seems to be suiting him very well. And if that wasn’t the reason—if there’s more to it, maybe much more to it—well, the decision seems to be suiting him very well in that case, too.