Don Jeanie and the Buss Family

We were all floored from hearing the news that Magic Johnson was stepping down from his role as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers; However, I’ve watched enough gangster flicks to recognize when things aren’t what they seem.

Upon hearing the breaking news that Magic had quit, I sent out a tweet, comparing the situation to a scene from the Godfather II.

However, I woke up the next morning thinking that perhaps not everyone – or a vast majority of my fifty-seven followers – got the reference? Perhaps a little backstory on exactly who Frankie “Five Angels” was, is needed? And just how many similarities are there between the Lakers ongoing saga and the greatest cinematic saga of all time, The Godfather?

Well, let’s start from the beginning:

In The Godfather

Don Vito Corleone – having survived an assassination attempt – becomes too old to continue as Don of the Corleone family. His children take turns assuming his position as Don (mostly eldest son Sonny and his kid brother Michael).

Don Corleone passes, leaving the family in the hands of his youngest son, Michael.

In the Lakers organization

Dr. Jerry Buss – whose life was not threatened by another organization – becomes too old to continue as owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. His children take turns assuming his position as owner (mostly eldest son Jimmy and his kid sister Jeanie).

Dr. Buss passes, but who do the Lakers belong to? Jim becomes president of basketball operations, while Jeanie becomes team president (???). Much confusion is caused by the titles Jerry’s children now operate under, and, with no true leader, a power struggle begins.

In The Godfather II

Fredo proves unable to handle the simplest of tasks. He makes many foolish mistakes, the granddaddy of them all being his inside information that almost leads to the assassination of his own brother, Michael. Michael finds that it’s in the best interest of the family business that his older brother Fredo be relieved of his duties, and orders a hit on him himself.

In the Lakers organization

Jim Buss proves unable to handle the simplest of tasks. He makes many foolish mistakes, the granddaddy of them all being his signing of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to albatross contracts. When rumors swirled that Jeanie was planning on firing her brother, Jim would proactively scheme with their brother Johnny into ousting her as team president and controlling owner to prevent it from happening. A form of career assassination! Jeanie finds it in the best interest of the family business that her older brother Jim be relieved of his duties, and terminates him herself.

I imagine Jeanie confronting Jim about his inadequacies as president of basketball operations looked like this scene between brothers Michael and Fredo:

Jim was definitely Fredo.

In The Godfather II

Frank Pentangeli was an old family friend. He served under Peter Clemenza’s family, who was a friend of Michael’s father.

When Frank was denied a request to eliminate his rivals by Michael – because it interfered with the family business – he leaves the meeting in anger. Immediately following the encounter, Michael is set up for a (failed) assassination in his own home. A series of events causes Frank to believe Michael blames him for the attack, and that he now wants him dead. In an act to preserve his own life, he plans to testify against Michael in a hearing against him and the Corleone family.

Michael and family lawyer Tom Hagen cook up a scheme that causes Frank to change his story, resulting in a mess in the courtroom. And now because he acted against the Corleone family – even though it was a failed attempt – it is advised that he remain in witness protection to deter any threat to his life.

With nothing further to live for, Tom suggests that it might be in everyone’s best interest that Frank commit suicide:

In the Lakers organization

Analyzing the above video, I can see that it’s not in Magic’s heart to terminate coaches or trade players. He doesn’t like it, because he’s genuinely a good dude, and he wants to go back to smiling and having fun. That part checks out.

The story he gives as to why Jeanie doesn’t know is what doesn’t sit well with me. I would think that if someone is your good friend, they should be the first person to know big news like this, particularly if you work for them. What makes more sense to me would be Jeanie informing Magic what he needed to do, and Magic lamenting that although he knows he needs to relieve Walton of his duties, it’s not in his nature to do so. Jeanie suggests that maybe this line of work isn’t for him, and Magic, with a heavy heart, agrees.

What’s funny about hiring family members or close friends is, when it’s not working out, it’s hard to let them know, much less fire them. Magic is like family to the Buss’. It’s been said he was more of a son to Jerry than even Jim himself. So, because it probably would have broken her father’s heart if he were alive to see it, and because he is such a dear friend, Jeanie didn’t have it in her to fire Magic. But, ever the business woman that she is, I believe that she instead talked him into stepping down, allowing all parties to save a little face.

This is all speculation, obviously, but, given how the previous scenarios have played out, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this was all a part of Jeanie’s plan to move forward. The evidence provided proves that Jeanie is in fact quite gangster.

As the Lakers head into the summer of 2019 with the looming draft and free agency period, many questions will follow them: Who will the team look to as a new president of basketball operations? Is Luke still a part of their future? What will they hope to accomplish this summer? Will LeBron win a championship in the remaining three seasons he has left on his contract with the Lakers?

You’re probably even asking yourself, Are there any scenarios that occur in the Godfather saga that I can relate back to the Lakers future?! Well, Fredo and Frank die at the end of Part II. Which means, if there are any answers, they would be found somewhere in Part III.

And since that’s the case, I have no idea. I’ve never watched The Godfather III, because I heard it was terrible.

… Uh oh.

Follow me on Twitter, for more comparisons to my favorite movies, as well as a few (possible) takes from the NBA playoffs. I’m not kidding, my goal is not to tune in until at least the conference finals, but with only baseball and hockey holding my interest, I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Leave a comment below, even if it’s just your favorite quote from the Godfather! I’ll be sure to read it.

Author: Commissioner Dan

Unofficial-next-commissioner of the NBA. Covering all things pro basketball (mostly Lakers), even if it's not like it was in the '90's.

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