Longtime Lakers Owner JERRY BUSS, “whose penchant for showmanship helped turn the game of basketball into ‘Showtime’ and who led the team to 10 NBA championships,” died this morning at the age of 80, according to David Wharton of the L.A. TIMES. A “self-made millionaire who built his fortune in real estate,” Buss bought the Lakers in ‘79. He “charted his successful course” with marquee players, HOF coaches, “celebrities sitting courtside and Laker Girls dancing during timeouts.” Buss at one time said, “I really tried to create a Laker image, a distinct identity. I mean, the Lakers are pretty damn Hollywood” (LATIMES.com, 2/18). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Buss “showed two sides to his ownership ways.” In the media, he “tried to stay under the radar.” But he also "enjoyed appearing at Lakers games in his end-zone luxury box with young women on his arms.” His idea was “to add the Lakers dance team, the in-seat waitresses, live music, and an array of stars sitting [in] courtside seats, starting with JACK NICHOLSON planted firmly for all the cameras and patrons to see.” Buss also was the “first to figure out how to cash in on naming rights” (INSIDESOCAL.com, 2/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Mike Barnes notes Buss “time and time again spared no expense in making his NBA team a top-notch title contender -- not to mention a premier entertainment attraction in Hollywood.” Buss’ son, Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel JIM and daughter JEANIE, Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations, run the team. Other survivors include children JOHNNY and JANIE, who like Jim and Jeanie, are products of Buss’ marriage to ex-wife JOAN MUELLER, whom he divorced in the early '70s, and JOEY and JESSE, whom he had with former girlfriend KAREN DEMEL (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/18). AEG President & CEO TIM LEIWEKE in a statement said, "Dr. Buss was our partner, our mentor and our friend. He was kind enough to allow us into his world and much of the success we enjoyed at Staples Center and L.A. Live is directly attributed to him. I do not believe we will ever find anyone quite like him. Our prayers and thoughts are with Jeanie and the entire Buss family” (THE DAILY).
REMEMBERING THE MAN: Radio host Dan Patrick said of Buss, "What I loved about Jerry Buss is he lived the life that you wanted your owner to live. He cared about the product, he reinvested into the product, he took chances, he made trades, he had fun.” He was “flamboyant” and “always had star power” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 2/18). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said of Buss, “He was about ‘Showtime.’ He was about not just winning basketball games but pleasing his patrons ... as often as he possibly could, making sure that he put on a show." Smith: "He was a winner and he demanded that from all the guys that worked under him, not in quite the same way that GEORGE STEINBRENNER did … but nevertheless, as equally profound.” ESPN’s Kurt Rambis, who played and coached for Buss, said, “Primarily, he wanted to win, and you can’t say that about every organization and every owner. He was willing to make extreme sacrifices, financial sacrifices namely, to put together a winning formula out there on the floor.” ESPN's Flip Saunders: "Basketball was a No. 1 priority for that team, and so you always knew they were going to do whatever they had to do to be successful. And for them it wasn’t about winning, it was about winning championships” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/18).
TWEETS ON BUSS: The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke wrote, "RIP the greatest owner in history of American professional sports...Lakers, and all of sports, will never be the same." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban wrote, "RIP Jerry Buss. Your encouragement and support along with your stories of staying true to yourself had an enormous impact on me." ESPN's Rick Reilly: "RIP Jerry Buss, who made those years at the Forum the most outrageous, decadent and fun time a sportswriter could have." NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano: "Dr. Buss gave fans everything they wanted: the best players, the best coaches, and 10 championships." Former Lakers beat writer Ross Siler: "Jerry Buss went from growing up in Kemmerer, Wyo., to owning the Lakers and winning 10 titles. Just an incredible life journey." NBA.com's Steve Aschburner: "So much talk, esp. at Legends brunch, of All-Star Wknd as NBA family reunion. So Lakers owner Jerry Buss' passing hits many close to home."