I was watching ESPN yesterday when I heard the news Laker owner Jerry Buss passed away at the age of 80. The news came as a shock to me. I heard he was in the hospital, but had no idea of the severity of his condition. After hearing some of the comments made by former players, executives, and reporters the legacy of Jerry Buss is absolutely mind boggling. During his 34 year tenure as owner the Lakers had 16 World Championship appearances, 19 division titles, and 10 NBA titles. If I stopped right there he would be considered one of the greatest owners in the history of professional sports.
As I delve further it gets even more ridiculous. It can be argued that his former players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaq, and Kobe Bryant are among the 10 greatest players to ever play basketball. It can be argued that Phil Jackson and Pat Riley are 2 of the 3 greatest coaches in NBA history. From 1980 to 1991 the Lakers played for the championship 9 times. From 2000 to 2010 the Lakers played for the championship 7 times. In the era of free agency and salary escalation this type of dominance is unfathomable.
In addition, Jerry Buss forged a partnership with Magic Johnson that is unheard of in professional sports today. Not only did they kick it together at the Playboy mansion after games (who does that), but he also made him the highest played player and gave him part ownership of the team when his playing days were over. Magic credits his experience with Buss as the main reason he's been so successful as a businessman.
Buss also brought excitement and entertainment to the NBA. With the Laker girls and the up style tempo of play the Lakers became an event that attracted stars and high profile people from all walks of life. Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Penny Marshall, and countless other celebrities are routinely seen at Laker games. That didn't exist before Jerry Buss. The experience turned Paula Abdul and Karyn White into stars. Amazing you can go from being a cheerleader
to being a Grammy winning performer.
It's safe to say this kind of success won't be duplicated in our lifetime and his absence is already being felt. The Lakers have been nothing short of dysfunctional since he passed the reigns over to his son Jimmy and without his presence and guidance I don't see things getting better anytime soon. It's sad that such an incredible legacy can't be sustained. Then again if you heard the numbers and the stats I just rattled off a franchise would be lucky to achieve 1/10 of that. The Lakers have been fortunate, but they've also been resourceful and calculating. It's no surprise other teams have tried to follow their blueprint (Boston, Miami, New York), but I doubt they can match the production. I don't know what your criteria is for determining the greatest owner in sports history is, but whatever it is Jerry Buss should be at the top of the list. Laker Nation lost a great man, innovator, and owner. RIP Jerry.