NBA clears Lakers and Magic Johnson after brief tampering investigation

Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons in action during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets,
Ben Simmons
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

After a brief investigation, the NBA determined there was no improper communication between the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons, and that Magic Johnson’s comments before Sunday’s game between the teams did not constitute tampering.

“The Philadelphia 76ers initiated the contact with the Los Angeles Lakers by requesting a meeting between Johnson and Simmons,” the league’s news release said Tuesday. “Both organizations ultimately concluded that such a meeting did not make sense at this time but in that context, Johnson’s response to a media inquiry regarding Simmons does not run afoul of league rules.”

The NBA’s statement supports one the Lakers released Monday afternoon, which said the 76ers asked for the meeting in a November email, leading Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka to call 76ers GM Elton Brand. The Lakers’ statement said Pelinka told Brand that Simmons would need written permission from the 76ers to meet with Johnson.

A person familiar with the discussion told The Times that Pelinka let Brand know he wasn’t comfortable with the request, and that Brand declined to provide written permission.


Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations, was asked if he enjoys watching Simmons play before Sunday’s game.

“Oh for sure, for sure,” Johnson said. “He reached out to me — not to me directly, to the Lakers — to find out if we could get together this summer. I said, ‘Hey, you’d have to clear it with the league. Everybody. The Sixers sign off. We sign off. The league signs off that nothing [inappropriate] is going on.’

“He wants to know how to play the position as a big guard ... It’s fine. I will do that. But if everybody doesn’t sign off, then we can’t get together.”

Brand later was asked about the subject during a radio show. He said Pelinka called him requesting permission and he said no. The NBA opened its investigation later that afternoon.


Sign up for our Lakers newsletter »

Twitter: @taniaganguli