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Los Angeles Lakers legend blasts fans who think they should tank in NBA Play-In Tournament

Los Angeles Lakers, Darvin Ham, LeBron James
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Famer Magic Johnson won five NBA titles and earned three NBA Finals MVP awards during his Los Angeles Lakers career.

Suiting up for Pat Riley during the Showtime Lakers era of the 1980s, it was all about being competitive on the court. Old-school competitiveness.

With his former Lakers team set to take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Play-In Tournament Tuesday evening, talk has turned to tanking.

The thought process is obvious. It’s also pretty flawed. Los Angeles would likely have an easier first-round matchup if it loses to the Pelicans and defeats the winner of the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors game on Thursday.

This would enable the Lakers to avoid the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets in the first round. Rather, they’d take on the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder. Johnson is not buying any of it.

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“I want the Lakers to beat the Pelicans tonight to secure the #7 seed and face the Nuggets. Even though the Lakers lost their four matchups against the Nuggets, games 2, 3, and 4 were all close! It’s ridiculous that I’ve been hearing people think they should intentionally lose to face the winner of the Kings vs Warriors and eventually, the Thunder. As a true competitor, you should always want to win. To be the best, you have to beat the best!”

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson posted on X
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 12-time All-Star is not necessarily wrong. Losing to the Pelicans would not guarantee a win over either the Kings or Warriors moving forward in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

In fact, Los Angeles has lost three consecutive games to the Warriors dating back to Feb. 22. Sacramento also swept Darvin Ham’s squad in their four-game regular-season series.

For the Lakers, making it to the NBA Playoffs has to be the overriding goal. From there, LeBron James and Co. can deal with planning for their Round 1 opponent.

Los Angeles visits New Orleans Tuesday evening. The winner would nab the seventh seed and a first-round date with Denver while the loser takes on who comes out on top between Sacramento and Golden State for the eighth spot out west.

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