The NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers have lost a treasure. Jerry Buss, the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, has passed away at the age of 80 on Monday morning. He had been having health problems over the past few years and finally succumbed to cancer on February 18th, 2013.
Jerry Buss has owned the Lakers since 1979, purchasing it from Jack Kent Cooke. Buss also purchased the Los Angeles Kings from Cooke before selling it to Bruce McNall. He’s considered one of the most successful owners in sports as he has overseen 10 NBA championships. It’s because of this excellence that he was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Magic Johnson came in at the same year Jerry Buss became the owner of the Lakers. Johnson ushered in the “Showtime” era. For Buss’s part, he brought in the Laker girls and helped make the games more entertaining by having Hollywood stars sit on courtside. The Lakers have been to 16 NBA Finals since he took over ownership.
Stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard have come through the Lakers during his ownership. He had also kept Jerry West in the front office after West was able to give up his coaching job and Buss only mentioned that he only wanted the team if Magic Johnson was the pick, not Sidney Moncrief (from Magic Johnson’s book, My Life).
Buss, an avid poker player, also was able to win the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sweepstakes. It was his influence that has given the Lakers title after title over the years. He also took a risk when he decided to pick Kobe Bryant over Shaquille O’Neal. Buss, a fan of Showtime, also decided to hire Phil Jackson and his intricate Triangle offense in two separate occasions. Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant won five titles together, as many as the Showtime Lakers did in the eighties.
Jerry Buss set the standard on how sports franchises are run. The Lakers provide the style and the substance over the years and the Laker name has been synonymous with success. Dr. Buss will be missed.