The NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers are mourning the loss of visionary Lakers' owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died today at 80 from an undisclosed form of cancer.
Buss was one of the finest owners in sports history, purchasing the Lakers, hockey's LA Kings, and the LA Forum arena in 1979 for $67 million. He loved entertainment and parties and was the first of the owners in sports to realize the value of merging sports and entertainment. He understood that to be successful in a city like LA, where there are many nightlife and entertainment options, he had to transform an already successful Lakers franchise into a must-see event each game night.
He invited many of his Hollywood buddies to sit courtside at the games, he re-branded the Forum to the Fabulous Forum,then sold the rights to name the arena to Great Western Savings and Loan (Great Western Forum) he changed the lighting at The Forum to shine solely on the court, and he treated each game like a party. But, he never forgot about the quality of the basketball team - hiring former Laker great Jerry West to run the team. Of course, it helped that he drafted Magic Johnson, brought in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and Coach Pat Riley. Now, it was "Showtime," a moniker Buss marketed to describe the highly-entertaining, up-tempo style of basketball the Lakers played.
Buss's team won 10 NBA Titles, five with Johnson and five with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal decades later. Magic Johnson, on Twitter, posted, "WOW! Where do I begin?! I was 19 when I first met Dr. Buss and for 34yrs he has been a father figure and best friend." Players loved Buss because he loved them and showered them with money, respect, and kindness. He was described as a laid-back, ego-less man who was a self-made billionaire. The Lakers are now estimated by Forbes to be worth over $1 billion. His hockey team, the Kings, won the NHL's Stanley Cup in 2012. He also moved the teams out of the older Forum and built a sports and entertainment palace called The Staples Center.
Buss will be missed by all in basketball, especially his former players, coaches, and employees. They don't make owners like him anymore. R.I.P. Dr. Buss.