Kevin Ding's crazy attack on Magic Johnson

January 17, 2014

Columnist Kevin Ding has covered the Lakers for 15 years. Most recently he left the Orange County Register to join the website Bleacher Report. Yesterday, he went ballistic.

In his most recent article, absurdly entitled, “Does Magic Johnson Really Care About the Success of the Los Angeles Lakers,” Ding undoubtedly wrote one of the most inflammatory and unprofessional articles you will read by a journalist with his experience and reputation.

Ding’s vitriolic and downright nasty column was in response to recent comments by Johnson to the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized the way current owner Jim Buss has run the team.

Here were some of the comments made by Johnson in that article by Mike James:

“Everybody’s telling me free agents don’t want to sign [with the Lakers]…They’re looking at the Lakers now as a team that’s dysfunctional; who’s their leader, who’s the guy?”
“The biggest problem they’re going to have right now…you’ve got to get a guy like Jerry West to be the face of the team…[Lakers General Manager] Mitch [Kupchak] is great, but he doesn’t have the power.”
“This is what happens when you make the wrong decision, two coaching wrong decisions, giving Steve Nash that deal, it’s backfired…You’ve got to have someone helping Jim. He’s got to quit trying to prove a point to everybody that he can do it on his own, get his ego out of it, and just say, ‘Let me get someone beside me to help achieve the goals I want.’”

In that same article, Magic also states the Lakers were premature in signing Kobe Bryant to a two-year extension and suggests they should have waited until season's end to explore what other free agents could be acquired.

Ding’s overall conclusion from reading Johnson’s comments was that Magic was no longer loyal to the Lakers “brand” or interested in the success of the team. Huh? How exactly did Ding come to that conclusion? Apparently by incorrectly equating criticism of Lakers management with an abandonment of the Lakers brand and tradition as a whole.

One would think an experienced reporter like Ding would know better than to confuse criticism of Jim Buss with disloyalty for the “Lakers.”

Sorry Kevin, but Magic is, and will always be, more of a Laker than Jim Buss, and therefore it is downright silly to suggest he would be anti-Lakers anymore than he would be against himself. Long after Jim Buss’s era comes and goes people will still be taking pictures in front of Magic Johnson’s statue outside of Staples Center.

Nonetheless, that Ding disagreed with Magic’s perspective (and that of most rational observers) about the Lakers, or that his own analysis made little sense, are not the main problems with his article. The real problem was how disproportionately hostile he came across about Johnson expressing his views, and the manner in which he proceeded to attack the all-time Lakers great.

You would have thought that Magic had insulted Ding’s family rather than the Lakers ownership. It does lead one to speculate whether Ding has a deep personal dislike of Johnson or an unprofessional attachment – for a purportedly objective reporter – to Jim Buss.

Here is some of Ding’s ridiculously out-of-line diatribe, with comments below:

“Johnson made his latest brainless, whichever-way-the-wind-blows comments Wednesday in a meeting with Los Angeles Times staffers…” Ding asserts that not only were Magic’s quite reasonable comments “brainless,” but they are only the most recent of Magic’s “brainless” comments. Seriously Kevin? You’re sure you want to say that about MAGIC JOHNSON’s opinion on anything related to basketball and still maintain any semblance of credibility?

"His uneducated, shallow, fleeting assessments…"

Whoa, hold up. Calling Johnson’s assessments “uninformed” would suggest he is ignorant of the facts to make a proper analysis. But characterizing them as “uneducated” suggests the Lakers legend might simply be incapable of properly analyzing the facts. Essentially, it implies he thinks Magic  is stupid.

One would rather believe this is simply an example of extremely poor word choice on Ding’s part, except it is so obvious that as a writer you can’t imagine that Ding doesn’t know that already.

"…indicate he’s a bandwagon guy…"

Ding apparently does not bother with logic here. Even if Magic’s views (which in reality are both correct and the opinion of the vast majority of longtime Lakers fans) are exactly what Ding characterizes them as – uneducated, shallow, fleeting – that doesn’t necessarily suggest he simply roots for the Lakers when they are good and ignores them (or worse, roots against them) when they are bad.

In fact, Magic’s frustrated comments reveal the opposite: He is clearly worried that for the first time ever, quality free agents are hesitating to become Lakers due to concerns about management. Any objective observer would surmise that Johnson is still very passionate about the team, unhappy with its current lack of success, and is thus motivated to offer ideas on how to improve the team.

"…who mainly wants to make clear, in a trap a lot of older people tend to fall into, that the past was better. Jerry Buss was his benefactor, Jerry West was great, blah blah blah…"

First of all, what “trap” is he talking about? The Lakers past, whether it was the Showtime Era or the Phil Jackson era, was better. Is that even in dispute? Is there something wrong in trying to learn from past success?

Second, it’s difficult to decide if Ding is being genuinely dismissive of the sentiments of longtime fans of the Lakers or just merely childish when he derisively mocks Magic’s affection for Jerry Buss and Jerry West like this.

According to Ding’s suggested argument, “older people” (like Magic apparently), who espouse the greatness of the Lakers tradition, often have a self-serving interest in glorifying past success and therefore can be dismissed out of hand. Even Magic Johnson’s praise of Jerry Buss for hiring Phil Jackson – a coach he never played for himself and who won an NBA Title as recently as 2010 (less than five years ago)  – is apparently an example of this selfish elderly nostalgia for a bygone era.

"With all due respect to West’s epic accomplishment in the past, ‘The Logo’ is 75 years old, already an ownership consultant for the Golden State Warriors and hasn’t directly influenced the course of NBA history in 13 years…The Lakers have a better chance of selling today’s free agents with West’s son, Ryan, whom they already employ as one of their scouting directors."

Ding now takes a jab at West’s age and relevance. If Ding had only added a little misplaced mockery of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chick Hearn, he could have officially created the most convoluted analysis imaginable: True “pride” in the Lakers brand is achieved only by diminishing the success and glory of all four of the individuals with statues outside Staples Center.

By the way, he is totally wrong that a West-like persona couldn’t command more respect from players in the NBA. But at least he affords West “all due respect” before ripping him, something he doesn’t bother to do with Magic.

"Magic needs to shut up."

Yes, that’s a direct quote from Kevin Ding’s column.

"Times change and people change and accountability slips. It’s increasingly the way of our society now. It’s harder and harder to find the fair and honorable."

This is one of two times in his article that Ding gets on a soapbox and rambles on about the horrors of a society where accountability is disappearing and people are no longer doing the right thing. Oh wait, I thought being nostalgic about the past was something only deluded “older people” do?

Ding concludes his article by making an utterly absurd comparison between Nick Young’s desire to throw punches on the court during a game and Magic’s betrayal of the Lakers with his critique of Jim Buss:

"In today’s mixed-up world, a first year guy with a reputation of selfishness and the self-anointed nickname of “Swaggy P’ can be a truer Laker than even Magic Johnson."

Actually no, he can’t, and the only one mixed-up about this is you Kevin…and perhaps your good friend, Jim Buss?

by Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. Why are you criticizing Kevin Ding? He's a great writer!

    1. Great writer?? Bleacher Report looks like its having some desperate budget cuts hiring this fool. That nerd Ding managed to trash the Logo and Magic in one column and had the balls to say ballhoggin Swaggy P is a true Laker.

  2. Kevin Ding should respect Magic and Lakers tradition if he wants to act like he's defending it.

  3. Bottom line, Magic told THE TRUTH!!!!

    1. This is true and now we have some Ding A Ling with his views.

  4. Bleacher Report reporters don't have the same accountability as print media reporters. Probably why Ding is no longer with a halfway decent sports dept. like the OC Register.
    Somehow I think Magic's 5 championships and four other NBA finals appearances gives him the right to speak out on such things.

  5. Ding was right. He and all Laker fans are tired of the media acting like nothing but glorified cyber trolls. Seriously, rather than use so many words, the current sports media could save a lot of time and energy by just having every article say simply "Neener neener neeener".

  6. Ding's artIcle itself read like something a cyber troll would write. It was an intentionally outlandish and insulting - written purely to steal attention for himself.

  7. Manish, this is weak journalism because you did not post the comments Magic said in 2012 when he COMPLIMENTED the acquisition of Steve Nash and the moves of Jim Buss. They were in the original Kevin Ding article.

    Why didn't you use those comments? Because it didn't fit the tone of your story.
    I love Magic, but he has gone back and forth on the Lakers in the last two years. Five rings and multiple MVP's doesn't give him the right to be wildly inconsistent. And I think his current criticism is CORRECT. But I have thought that from the get go, wasn't sure Nash was on his last legs, haven't liked either of the coaching moves, and thought Dwight was not going to stay the moment he got here(although I appreciated him playing through injury last season).

    Please become a journalist, not a partisan who doesn't give the full story.

    1. Here is what you missed, Mr Pandya. Magic's comments upon the signing of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

      I love it. Jim, you look like your father; I’m proud of you. He’s definitely the guy now to win the NBA executive-of-the-year award.

      This is also so good for Coach Mike Brown. He knows defense so well and Dwight is going to erase those shots coming down the lane, and Mike will know just how to use him. The Lakers’ tradition of great centers continues. It's just great.

    2. Mr. Kincade, thank you for you comments.

      The portion of Mr. Ding's article that referenced Magic's prior praise of Jim Buss was left out for several reasons other than the reason that you suggest: that it simply didn't fit the the tone of our article.

      First, it should be noted that a link to Mr. Ding's article was included in our article. Thus, each reader had a chance to view the totality of Mr. Ding's argument for themselves.

      Second, the primary focus of our article was centered not on the fact that Mr. Ding was criticizing Magic, but that he was doing so in an inflammatory and unprofessional manner. In light of this, an examination of every aspect of Mr. Ding's critique of Magic was not considered necessary.

      Third, Ding's use of the "praising Jim Buss" quote was meant to show that Magic was now criticizing Jim Buss for the exact same things he was praising him for last year. However, that was not actually the case. Magic's critiques were almost entirely about other issues: the hiring of D'Antoni, the premature resigning of Kobe, and the perception among current NBA players that leadership was lacking in the Lakers organization.

      The only connection between his prior comments praising Jim Buss and his current comments was that he mentioned Steve Nash. Yet even when mentioning Nash, Magic was not quoted as stating he personally would never have supported the idea -- that would indeed have made him appear disingenuous. He simply acknowledged a fact: that it "backfired" and proved to be another mistake made by the current Lakers management.

      Finally, while one can debate whether its appropriate for Magic to even bring up a mistake of Lakers management that he supported at the time, it's fairly obvious that Magic could have found at least a dozen other dubious decisions by the current Lakers management since the signing of Nash. Thus, to overly focus on Magic's prior quote would unnecessarily confuse any understanding of his actual argument -- which may well have been Mr. Ding's intent in the first place.


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