The passing of Dr. Jerry Buss was a huge loss not only to the city of Los Angeles and the Lakers, but to the international basketball community as well. There has been grief and sadness surrounding his passing, as well as deep reflection and celebration of his legacy, life and impact as a family man, friend and owner of one of the most successful franchises in professional sports.
There has been countless memories that were ultimately created by the man who desired employing champions for the fans in his over 33 year tenure. He singlehandedly turned a team into one of the biggest powerhouses the sports world has ever seen. We asked some of the Lakers Nation writers their thoughts on Dr. Buss’ legacy and impact to the basketball world.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): Dr. Jerry Buss is the “American Dream” personified. He grew up struggling in Wyoming, worked hard to establish his name on this Earth and past away as an icon and mogul within the second largest city in the United States and in the international basketball community. Buss’ impact could be felt in the streets of downtown LA to the basketball courts in any foreign land. In my mind, he changed the game of basketball by making it into something bigger: entertainment. Starting with the Showtime era, Dr. Buss created an environment that made it the popular and the “in” trend to go to a Lakers game down at the Forum. Dr. Buss was ultimately responsible for taking a Lakers franchise, turning it into a national and international brand and eventually into a culture that has amazing influence in the NBA and basketball world, all without forgetting the importance of the local community and the fanbase.
All of this was accomplished by Dr. Buss’ drive to win at all costs. This is a hard thing to come by in professional sports owners because of the financial aspect of operating a franchise. Not only was Buss willing to spend a ton of money to obtain the right players, but he didn’t care what others said about the Lakers’ payroll as well. If it led to raising another banner in the rafters, it was all justified. Whether it was creating the Showtime era or the Shaq/Kobe dynasty in the late 1990s-early 2000s or the Kobe era, LA and Lakers fans have Dr. Buss to thank for every memory that has catapulted the Lakers to the best franchise in basketball.
Jabari Davis (@LA_SportsTalk): Rather than detailing the eye-popping statistical/numerical superlatives of Dr. Buss’ legendary career that I’m certain will be covered from every angle by this roundtable, I wanted to share just what Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Buss meant to me. I guess you could say I was “born into greatness” as my birth (June 1979) almost coincided precisely with Dr. Buss’ purchase of the Los Angeles Lakers. My walls were literally plastered with purple/gold pictures, posters, and (of course) Lakers apparel from a very small age, so I guess one would have to conclude that I get this obsession fairly honestly.
Dr. Buss masterfully blended basketball excellence with the appeal of Hollywood entertainment and called it ‘Showtime’. He was the embodiment of success. Beyond the 16 Finals appearances and 10 titles, Dr. Buss is also a member of both the Boxing and Pro Basketball Hall(s) of Fame. Truly, a case of greatness personified. From very meager roots in Wyoming to the absolute pinnacle of success in both real estate and in various ventures within the sporting world, Dr. Buss leaves behind a legacy and resume unparallelled by any figure in professional sports history.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Dr. Jerry Buss has enabled me to be a proud fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. His unique brand of entertainment has attracted and retained millions of fans, and his commitment to winning has been even more impressive. It was Dr. Buss who managed to continually lure the big names to the Lakers–whether it be players or coaches–and assure fans that they would always have a team ready to compete for a championship and be proud of. A parade in June down Figueroa was always the hope, and it was usually a realistic one.
What has amazed me over the past few days, however, is witnessing all of the former players, staff members, etc. who all caught their break–so to speak–from Dr. Buss and the success they’ve had thereafter as a result of Buss’ generosity in sharing his assets as well as knowledge. I look at people like James Worthy, Kurt Rambis (TWC SportsNet analysts), Byron Scott (head coach in the NBA), Pat Riley (Vice President of the Miami Heat), Magic Johnson (who learned the sports business from Buss and is now a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers), among many, many others, and can’t help but sit in amazement at how many careers he’s not only helped start, but continue as well.
Obviously, all of those individuals are extremely talented, driven individuals who would’ve been successful no matter what, but they’ll also be the first ones to tell you that Dr. Buss had a huge impact on their respective success–and many have them have said that over the past couple of days. His leadership and the manner in which he conducted himself as a person are truly things to look up to for anyone, and it has motivated me to try and do the same. I may have never met him, and have never met any of the aforementioned people, but individuals who I admire so much–from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson to James Worthy to Kobe Bryant–are all an extension of Dr. Jerry Buss; an extension of true greatness.
Thank you for all you’ve given us as a fan-base and as a community, and may you rest in peace, Dr. Buss.
Daniel Buerge (@danielbuerge_LA): Exceptional ownership is perhaps the most underrated aspect of professional sports. Especially when that owner is an individual that is behind the scenes and thrives on making big picture decisions that aren’t always evident to the public. Jerry Buss was the epitome of successful ownership. While his personal life was anything but hidden, the decisions he made behind closed doors in Los Angeles turned the Lakers into the most successful franchise in the NBA, and he became the envy of team owners everywhere.
Perhaps Dr. Buss’ greatest asset was his ability to trust the men and women he hired. Far too often meddling owners get in the way of their employees, pestering and needling until poor decisions are made, whether out of panic or sheer desperation. Dr. Buss was a quiet leader that always knew his people would make the decision that would best benefit his franchise.
But that certainly doesn’t mean Buss was afraid of making tough decisions. While he certainly got a few wrong here and there, they’re buried by so much success that most people can’t even recall a single example. So as the world continues to move forward without this revolutionary visionary that changed professional sports, it’s his unbelievably accurate decision-making and willingness to to make those decisions while listening to the opinions of the people he trusted and keeping an open mind that will forever go unparalleled in the NBA.
The Lakers will pay tribute to Dr. Buss tonight before tip-off between the Lakers and the Celtics. Tonight’s emotional game against the team he loved to beat the most will precede a private memorial service on Thursday afternoon at the Nokia Theater.