February 21, 2017 / 7:46 PM / 6 months ago

Magic named Lakers' president of basketball operations

FILE PHOTO - Former NBA basketball player Earvin Magic Johnson poses at the premiere of the movie "The Legend of Tarzan" in Hollywood, California, June 27, 2016.Danny Moloshok

(Reuters) - Magic Johnson was named the president of basketball operations for the struggling Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday as one of the NBA's most storied franchises undergoes a major shakeup to the their front office.

In addition to promoting Johnson, a Hall of Famer who won five NBA titles with Los Angeles in the 1980s, Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss fired longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak and her brother, Jim, from his role as vice president of basketball operations.

"I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself," said Jeanie Buss. "We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again."

Kupchak was in his 30th season working in the team's front office while Jim Buss, son of former Lakers owner Jerry Buss, joined the team in 1998.

The Lakers, who last week were ranked second in Forbes' list of most valuable NBA teams at $3 billion, are in the midst of one of the worst on-court stretches in their history.

Earlier this month the Lakers hired Johnson to advise ownership on basketball and business in a role the team said would include collaborating with coaches, mentoring players and assessing future franchise needs.

He called his newest role a "dream come true" and pledged to work tirelessly to get the team back to the top of the NBA.

"Since 1979, I've been a part of the Laker Nation and I'm passionate about this organisation," said Johnson. "I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court."

Johnson, 57, who ended his 12-year career with the Lakers in 1991 after he was diagnosed with HIV, was a minority owner of the team for several years after his retirement and built a business that owns movie theatres, health clubs and other properties.

Johnson, who staged a brief NBA comeback in 1996, was the face of a group that bought Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion in 2012. That group also bought Major League Soccer's Los Angeles FC and WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Los Angeles have not made the postseason since losing in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs and, with a 19-39 record that has them sitting second-last in the Western Conference, are headed to a fourth consecutive losing campaign.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Clare Fallon

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