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L.A. Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Dies at 80

The Los Angeles Lakers won 10 NBA championships under Buss’ ownership.

Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who helped transform the franchise into the most successful and glamorous team in North American professional sports, died Monday, the team and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center confirm. He was 80.

Buss died at 5:55 a.m., according to Cedars-Sinai spokeswoman Sally Stewart.

Buss had spent time in the intensive care unit at CedarsSinai Medical Center with an undisclosed form of cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In December 2011, he was hospitalized for treatment of blood clots in his legs that officials said were caused by extensive traveling.

In 1979, Buss purchased the Lakers, Forum, Los Angeles Kings hockey team and a 13,000-acre Kern County ranch from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million, then the largest transaction in sports history.

When Buss purchased the team, it had won one championship in the previous 25 seasons and had lost nine times in the NBA finals during that span, including four seven-game series.

Buss combined show business glamour and sex appeal with shrewd personnel moves—both on and off the court—to make the Lakers become what NBA Commissioner David Stern once said was “the standard by which all L.A. sports franchises and most American franchises get measured.”

In Buss’ first season as owner, the Lakers won the NBA championship, then added four more titles in the following eight seasons, as the Magic Johnson-led fast-breaking “Showtime” offense enthralled both the general public and celebrities like Academy Award-winning actor Jack Nicholson, who became regulars in the courtside seats.

Under Buss, the Lakers became the first basketball team to have a dance squad, the Laker Girls, who also developed a devoted following and inspired similar squads by every other team in the league.

The Lakers won three more NBA championships from 2000-2002 with teams led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Bryant-led teams won titles in 2009 and 2010.

The Lakers’ 10 championships under Buss’ ownership are the most by a team in any of the four major North American professional leagues since he purchased the team. Buss’ 10 championships as an owner are the most in NBA history.

Buss was selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. During the induction ceremony at the Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., the site of the Hall of Fame, Buss said he was “probably happier than anyone” to be inducted “because most of the people that come up here have an inkling of the idea someday they may make the Hall of Fame.

“Believe me, when I was 21, I never thought I’d be enshrined,” Buss said during the ceremony.

Buss, accompanied on the stage by fellow Hall of Fame members Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson and Pat Riley, recalled how he “was an overly competitive, but underly endowed player” in high school, who “turned to heavy studies” and “eventually won a scholarship to the University of Wyoming.”

Born Jan. 27, 1933, in Salt Lake City and raised in the tiny mining and sheep ranching community of Kemmerer, Wyo., Buss came to Southern California to attend graduate school at USC, where he received a doctorate in physical chemistry.

Buss taught at USC and worked in the aerospace industry, then joined with aerospace engineer Frank Mariani in forming Mariani-Buss Associates, a real estate firm, whose initial goal was to provide Buss with income to pursue his love of teaching.

Instead, Buss parlayed an original $1,000 investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building into a fortune that would enable him to enter professional sports ownership.

Buss made his initial foray into professional sports in 1974 when he purchased full control of the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis.

In 2006, Buss received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honored in the television category for co-founding with the late cable pioneer Bill Daniels the Prime Ticket regional cable sports channel in 1985, which showed the Lakers’ home games, along with other events from the Forum, college sports and other events.

Despite others’ fears that televising home games would hurt attendance, Prime Ticket generated millions of dollars annually through the sale of television rights fees and ended up bolstering the Lakers’ attendance by creating greater interest in the team.

The Lakers are expected to remain in control of the Buss family. Son Jim is the team’s executive vice president of player personnel and daughter Jeanie is executive vice president of business operations.

Another son, Johnny, is executive vice president of strategic development and another daughter, Janie Drexel, is director of charitable services, while son Jesse is director of scouting.

In addition to his five children involved with the Lakers, son Joey is chief executive officer of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers’ NBA Development League affiliate.

-City News Service

JustUs February 20, 2013 at 04:15 PM
(1) I suspect a reasonable person would read your paragraph that I referenced and consider that an attack on me. And based on my innocuous comment (As I previously explained), I believe it was unwarranted. It was the largest paragraph in your comment and it was directed at me. You named me specifically while you did not name the one(s) who attacked me with relentless abandoned. I think that speaks volumes. So let's be frank. (2) If that's 'defending me', with friends like that who needs enemies? (3) I have well thought out and engaged opinions on topics of the day. Some people dislike my opinions. And they have as much right to dislike my opinions as I have to express them. I have not been counseled by the Patch staff (other than you which I refuted) for any of my writings. So whatever complaints were filed must have been frivilous. There are some opinions that I oppose too. The difference is I don't write the Editor and complain about the author. And there are those who openly attack, ridicule and demean me for my opinions on a routine basis. Still, I do not run to the Editor and whine. I consider it part of the comment board aura. If I complained to the Editor everytime I was attacked, ridiculed or demeaned the emails would be a mile high. (cont)
JustUs February 20, 2013 at 04:29 PM
(cont) (4) You don't have to read every blog to see the attacks that I sustain for merely stating my personal opinion on a matter. Avery follows me around from blog to blog like a provocateur inciting fights. Why not counsel him by name in public? Naturally he is a blog writer. Does that give him leeway to constantly attack me at will without rebuke? (5) Being nice to one another is a wonderful aspiration for all. But when someone attacks me on the board, I am not going to sustain punch after punch without defending myself. If people do not like my opinions they have the right to express that. And I welcome it. But the personal attacks are over the line, and whenever someone attacks me for my personal opinion I will fight back. I never make a comment personal unless I am attacked or the person has a history in lodging personal attacks against me. Go back and read my comments if you question that. I am an honorable and upstanding board commenter. But I will defend my honor. And if this board is a 'rodeo' as you suggest I feel like I've been ridden hard and put up wet. I suggest you spend more time counseling those who malign me for merely stating my opinion on controversial subject matter. (6) Why would you give Avery or the other the benefit of the doubt in evaluating my comments. Why don't you do it yourself instead of judging me based on other's reactions? (7) If you resent me defending myself here, go ahead and ban me, if that is your policy.
xxxxxxxxx February 22, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Just BREATHE! It seems to me that, maybe they would like for you to just show a little more self-control and not be so defensive all the time (It only makes you look guilty).
Dan Avery February 22, 2013 at 05:44 AM
On a different blog he said "your nation" and "your detractors" when talking about the United States. Strange eh for a native American to say that eh, xxxxxxxxx?
Silence Dogood February 23, 2013 at 10:18 PM
OMG, OMG, I just figured it out! It's so obvious! The incredibly thin-skinned bully JustUs is actually the incredibly thin-skinned bully Sarah Palin! Welcome to the Patch Governor!

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