Dr. Jerry Buss was more than just an NBA owner. He was an architect, innovator and a sports icon. On February, 18, 2013 the sports world lost a living legend, who lost his battle with cancer. He bought the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979 and made the franchise one of the cornerstones of the NBA; winners of 10 league championships and the face of sports in Southern California, under his watch
Buss had the personality, style and pocket-book to the lure the best of the best. His financial prowess gave him the ability to get the best coaches and players, keeping them together long-term, without breaking the bank. He created the glitz and glamour for his Lakers and implemented a certain celebrity-type atmosphere, adding floor seats in his arena during a time when the NBA frowned upon it. Buss’s influence help transformed a league from being an entry-level pro sport, molding it into must see TV.
He bought the Lakers for $67.5 million dollars from the late Jack Kent Cooke, in a deal that included Cooke’s California ranch, the LA Kings of the NHL and the Great Western Forum. That $67.5 million dollar investment turned into a fortune as the Lakers are now worth 1 billion dollars, which is the second most valuable NBA team right under the New York Knicks (valued at 1.1 billion).
Magic Johnson might have been the face of “Showtime”, but it was Dr. Buss who invented it. He created the Laker Girls for fan entertainment. It was he who had a band play in the Forum during games. Now every NBA team has dancers and halftime entertainment, thanks to Dr. Buss. Oh yes, Buss was a visionary far ahead of his time. He marketed his Lakers brand to the fullest and was beloved by most. He had generous pockets, competitive nature and was extremely engaging.
Buss brought in basketball geniuses, in Jerry West, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson; all of whom he let orchestrate championship success without any interference. West played a major role with the dynasty in the 80’s with Magic and Kareem and the 2000 three-peat that featured Shaq and Kobe. After West stepped down, it was Mitch Kupchak who stepped in and help guided the Purple and Gold to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
Who would have taken such a gamble in trading for a 17-year-old player from Lower Merion high school in Pennsylvania except for Buss? How about dismantling a roster and paying 120 million dollars to Shaquille O’Neal? Those two moves resurrected a franchise that could have easily went down south after a decade of mediocrity in the 90s.
He did what most were afraid to do as a millionaire in a billionaire’s league.
By Keith Madyun