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Monday, February 18, 2013

RIP Jerry Buss

Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss died this morning of kidney failure. He had been battling cancer for the past year. He was 80 years old.

Buss is one of a handful of executives, along with NBA Commissioner David stern, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and select few others, who lifted the NBA from being a fringe sport struggling for exposure to a world renowned outlet of sports entertainment and marketing personalities. Dr. Buss purchased the Lakers in 1979. While showcasing Hall of Fame players like Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, and James Worthy and winning ten NBA championships as the Lakers’ owner, Buss’ greatest overall contribution was merging NBA basketball and show business.

Buss’ Lakers will forever be associated with the “Showtime” atmosphere that emerged at Lakers games in the 1980s. Lakers games became an A-list event for A-list people to see and be seen. From the players to the cheerleaders, to Jack Nicholson’s ubiquitous appearance courtside leading the host of celebrities that could be seen at Lakers games, Buss established the Lakers as one of the NBA’s two premier franchises. The rivalry that the Lakers battled out with the other premier franchise, the Boston Celtics, three times in the 1984, 1985, and 1987 NBA Finals played a major role in making the NBA a water cooler topic all across America.

Buss’ front office leadership continued into the 21st century. The Lakers won five more World Championships after Y2K (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010) under Coach Phil Jackson with future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant. Buss’ shrewd decision making, such as the trades that brought future Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant to L.A. in 1996 and, later, the decision to trade Shaq from the Lakers kept the Lakers at the forefront of NBA discussions as well as contention.

Buss is survived by six children, including Jim and Jeanie Buss, who will run the Lakers’ day-to-day operations.

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