Walton said he had no involvement with the Lakers hiring Pelinka, which can’t become official until he completes the divestiture process with his business. Walton sounded fine with the idea after meeting Pelinka casually through players he has represented, including former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Golden State forward Andre Iguodala and Cleveland forward Channing Frye.
Pelinka represents former Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Even in early retirement, Bryant still has major influence on the Lakers. “Los Angeles has always been about hype,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “Kobe obviously had influence in getting Pelinka pushed through the door.” “I heard that this was coming,” another high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “He has a real connection with Kobe.”
Of the eight high-ranking African-American NBA team executives The Undefeated spoke to, none expressed any malicious intent toward Johnson or Pelinka. But they all said they would have at least appreciated an opportunity to interview for the job. All are more than qualified for the position. But many black assistant general managers and other high-level team executives said they have had a hard time getting consideration for any NBA general manager opening. “We just want to compete. Guys with practical basketball experience, that’s what it’s about. Don’t give me anything. We just want to compete,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said.
“Those opportunities are few and far in-between,” said Newton. “It’s very rare for a final decision-maker to feel comfortable that a person not like them is capable of running their team.” One NBA owner was offended by Newton’s comments and believed such talk wouldn’t help him get back into the league, a source said. “Nothing surprises me in this business,” one high-ranking black NBA team executive said. “Analytic guys getting jobs. Coaches being named executives. Now it’s the agents’ turn. Everyone except the people who have the practical basketball experience are getting shots.”