Magic Johnson

Five-time NBA champion Magic Johnson has resigned as president of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Johnson shocked the basketball world by resigning his position in an impromptu gathering with media members that lasted more than 40 minutes before the regular-season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Johnson, who announced he was HIV positive in 1991, said his health was ‘‘wonderful’’ and was not a factor in his decision.

The business mogul and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner sounded relieved while delivering the news, noting that he was going to return to his other interests and wanted to set up the Lakers for what will be a busy summer.

‘‘If I’m going to step down from the Lakers, this is the best time,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘The draft is not here. Free agency is coming up. Somebody can be in here to recruit … I’m looking forward to my life. I want to go back to being a businessman and helping the black community and the Latino community. I get to go relax and watch my Dodgers …

‘‘I want to be me. I knew if I stayed in the role, I’d be giving up a lot of me.’’

Johnson, 59, was hired by owner Jeannie Buss in February 2017 as part of a front-office restructuring in which her brother, head of basketball operations Jim Buss, and general manager Mitch Kupchak were both deposed. Joining Johnson was general manager Rob Pelinka, a former player agent best known for representing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

While Johnson took the unusual step of announcing his decision to the media before delivering it to Buss face-to-face, he referred to the Lakers owner as his ‘‘sister’’ and said he would continue to advise her and offer free agency pitches on behalf of the Lakers if she asked.

During their two-year tenure, Johnson and Pelinka scored a huge victory by landing LeBron James in free agency but have drawn criticism for numerous polarising moves and the Lakers’ failure to return to the play-offs, which they have not reached since 2013. Chief among the complaints: a salary cap-clearing move that sent all-star D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets, a puzzling 2018 summer strategy that surrounded James with unreliable veterans, and a desperate failed pursuit of an Anthony Davis trade back in February.

‘‘What’s tough for fans to understand is there’s going to be misery before you can get good,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘Everybody wanted the Lakers to turn around tomorrow, and I explained [it’s not that simple] when I took the job.’’

Johnson said his inability to speak freely about rival players was a contributing factor, calling himself a ‘‘free bird’’ who didn’t like being ‘‘handcuffed’’.

He drew the wrath of the NBA league office, which fined him $US500,000 ($700,000) for tampering with Paul George in 2017 and $US50,000 for tampering with Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2018.