As friends, family, business partners, and Lakers greats–past and present–all took the stage to honor the greatest owner in sports history, one common theme was evident: Dr. Jerry Buss trusted in those he empowered (whether in a coaching capacity, player, etc.), and those he entrusted, trusted in him.
As his eldest son, Johnny Buss, explained:
“Not everything went right but because he was always thinking ahead, everything became right.”
That statement, perhaps unintentionally, gave hope to the Lakers’ current season, which has largely been a disaster.
The same point was once again hit on the head as Phil Jackson noted how Buss refused to trade Kobe Bryant despite the young superstar’s demands in 2007 (Jackson said 2008), and prevailed by winning two more championships after winning three straight between years 2000-2002.
Once again, trust was referenced when Kobe Bryant took the stage and recalled how Buss planned to once again insert Jackson as the Lakers’ head coach in the summer of 2005 (Bryant said 2006), despite Kobe’s reluctance:
“He just looked at me and said, ‘Trust me,’ and I did. And that has taken us to a whole other level.”
What stuck out to me at one point was the fact that Dr. Buss’ memorial also fell on the same day as the NBA’s trade deadline.
Deliberate or not, the fact that Lakers’ management made no moves–major or minor–is a symbol; a symbol of trust in the man who transformed the Lakers and the league and whose vision always seemed to pan out, whether others saw it right away or not.
Kobe Bryant, of brilliance of his own, appeared to grasp Buss’ final vision as many of us surely did over the summer after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard–among others–but perhaps grew weary of in recent months due to the current team’s struggles:
“For our current Lakers, I encourage all of you to look around the room, look at the greatness of one man’s vision, look at the players that are here, coaches that are here; we have one thing in common, we all believe in Dr. Jerry Buss. We are playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season, playing for the memory of a great man, Dr. Jerry Buss.”
If nothing else, it was Kobe Bryant–the self-admitted impatient player–trusting in his late owner’s vision as he may have not done at a younger age, and assuring his current team that Dr. Buss did indeed “get it right” despite the listless record of the team.
What surprised me, however, was Kobe’s allusion to not just this season, but future seasons as well. Anybody who knows Kobe knows that he’s eternally focused on winning in the season he’s currently in, and hates to look ahead or concede anything until he’s forced off the court.
It was surely no relinquishing of the current season, either, as it was meant to be highly motivational; but more than anything it was a testament to how much Kobe has learned from the great Dr. Buss.
He’s learned of vision and extreme patience, the latter of which coming extremely difficult for a player whose career may very well be finished after next season.
Those words seemed to perk up the ears of current teammates as the cameras panned to Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, who were supposed to help Bryant win his sixth championship title and tie Dr. Buss’ Lakers with the hated Celtics at 17.
It was a call for togetherness and trust not only in each other, but trust in the man who truly changed the landscape of basketball forever.
It was a statement that perhaps this season isn’t going to be a success in terms of winning a championship, but that Dr. Buss’ vision–one with Dwight Howard as the future cornerstone of this franchise–could once again be successful.
However, it was surely not a concession speech by any means for this team or its season.
As Magic Johnson called on Lakers players–past and present–to rise to their feet in recognition of the successes they’ve met on and off the court as a result of being entrusted and empowered by Dr. Buss, there had to have been a shiver jolting through each and every player’s body.
To the former players and accomplished current ones (Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol) who stood up tall and proudly, it must have been a humbling experience.
To the current, newer players, it must have also been humbling, but in the sense that they were being recognized alongside some of the all-time greatest players; all as a result of playing for the Lakers, and all of them having at least one thing in common: The trust of Dr. Jerry Buss.
As Kobe Bryant said prior, the common factor among everyone in the room was “We all believe in Dr. Jerry Buss.”
In that regard, the feeling of trust has seemingly always been mutual between Dr. Buss and those he led.
Essentially, the non-movement of players by management at the trade deadline symbolized just that.
Perhaps if everyone (players, coaches, management, fans, and media) can all all learn a lesson from Dr. Buss and trust in his final vision with patience, maybe this season–and seasons beyond–will once again prove to be successful.
If we’ve learned anything from Dr. Buss, it’s that he was a man who always saw the “big picture” and his vision was often something many simply couldn’t grasp; that is, until the Lakers once again paraded down Figueroa on a sunny day in June.
I, for one, believed and still believe in Dr. Buss and his vision.