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On Thursday, MAGIC JOHNSON announced that he is leaving ESPN’s NBA Countdown show, citing a busy schedule and focus on “other commitments.” Although that may be true (Magic is currently involved with the Dodgers postseason run), word has it that there was a power struggle going on behind the scenes that ultimately led to Johnson’s departure.

Magic issued this formal statement via ESPN:

“I love ESPN. 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. I will always feel a strong connection to the ESPN family and I enjoyed working with them very much.” —Earvin “Magic” Johnson

But according to Deadspin.com, Magic wasn’t particularly happy with Bill Simmons’ expanded role on the show, especially considering ESPN execs had decided to diminish co-host Michael Wilbon’s role on the program. Wilbon is also a trusted friend of Magic’s. Deadspin’s report:

ESPN sources tell us that Johnson’s departure was the result of an old-fashioned power war, with one very clear winner: Bill Simmons. “It’s Simmons’s show now,” said one source.

Magic apparently was not at all happy when ESPN told his buddy Michael Wilbon that his role on NBA Countdown would be diminished. He was “booted,” according to one source. Another ESPN insider also said that Magic was “privately seething over the Wilbon thing and in general did not like that Simmons held all the power and influence.” Magic didn’t necessarily need the power, our sources explained; he just didn’t feel like kowtowing to Simmons when he’s, well, Magic Johnson.

“The bottom line is they turned that show over to Simmons,” said our source. “That’s why Doug Collins got hired and why Wilbon was out.”

Root of departure: Simmons apparently is the real reason Magic decided to leave the show.

First off, this makes perfect sense because Magic has a special admiration for Michael Wilbon. Both are good friends. Second, although a savvy NBA reporter, Bill Simmons sucks as a basketball analyst. One could see during last season’s telecasts that Magic, Jalen Rose and Wilbon had very little respect for his thoughts and insights. Now he is the straw that stirs the drink at ESPN in terms of its NBA basketball coverage? Nah. Magic ain’t having that.

Knowing how much Magic loves the game, trust me…focusing on the Dodgers playoff run and his many other endeavors would not necessarily hinder him from continuing to be a part of Countdown telecasts. But Simmons’ sudden “promotion” (and ESPN’s subsequent diss of his buddy Wilbon) definitely would.


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