If you’re a fan of the NBA today, the chances are good that you have Jerry Buss to thank for it. It was this legend that took the NBA from being a second-rated sport in America, to the huge prime time entertainment that it was today. He did it with his smart head for business, and his keen sense for what the world wanted, and how to provide it. Sadly, on Monday the world lost him after he died of kidney failure at the age of 80.
“Jerry Buss was more than just an owner,” said Pat Riley, who acted as the coach behind four of Buss’ 10 championship teams. “He was one of the great innovators that any sport has ever encountered. He was a true visionary, and it was obvious with the Lakers in the 80s that ‘Showtime’ was more than just Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was really the vision of a man who saw something that connected with a community.”
Jerry Buss bought the LA Lakers in 1979, and he’s the driving force behind the powerhouse the team has become today. Not only was he responsible for getting both Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar on the team, but also some of today’s most notable names including Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. It was under Buss that the Lakers made the NBA finals 16 times, and won 10 in three decades. There aren’t many owners in all of professional sports, let alone just basketball, that have seen the same kind of success. There are also very few that consider their teams their family, which is just what Buss did.
The loss, while sad, didn’t come as a huge shock to the sports community. Buss had been in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for the past 18 months battling cancer, and many current and former members of the team had already visited him to say their final good-byes.
The ownership of the Lakers is now in a trust held by all six of his children. The organization will now largely be run by two of those children — Jim and Jeanie Buss.