Dr. Jerry Buss, the longtime patriarch of the Los Angeles Lakers and the greatest owner in the history of professional sports, passed away on Monday morning at the age of 80.
Since he purchased the Lakers in 1979, Dr. Buss oversaw an era of unprecedented success in Los Angeles, playing the final cards for a team that missed the playoffs only twice while raising an NBA-high 10 Larry O’Brien trophies into the rafters.
Remarkably, the Lakers made the Finals in nearly half the seasons he was in charge (16). En route to all the championships, the Lakers put together the NBA's best record since Dr. Buss bought the team from Jack Kent Cooke, going 1786-926 for a winning percentage of .659 (San Antonio is the only other franchise above .600 at .606).
With all of the great players and coaches on one hand and the management and staff on the other under the leadership of Dr. Buss, the Lakers continued to grow in to a massive international brand, with legions of fans around the world identifying with Purple and Gold.
Dr. Buss turned the Lakers into not just a great basketball team, but the hottest show in a town full of A-listers. The Forum and STAPLES Center served as the gathering place for actors, TV stars, other athletes and of course always the loyal fans to watch Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and another of his creations, the Laker Girls.
For three decades of sustained prosperity, Dr. Buss was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010, enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts, on August 13, 2010. Buss became the third Laker to enter the Hall as a contributor, alongside Chick Hearn and Pete Newell.
Dr. Buss was a graduate of the University of Wyoming, earning his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and subsequently a Ph. D in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California. After a short time in the aerospace industry, he and his friend Frank Mariani went into real estate, the firm of Mariani-Buss Associates seeing immediate success. Dr. Buss soon turned an initial $1,000 investment in a West L.A. apartment building into assets eventually allowing him to purchase the Lakers and other properties, as he at different times owned the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis, the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA and the Los Angeles Lazers of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Innovative in numerous areas, Dr. Buss made break throughs in advertising (like a major agreement with Great Western Bank in 1988), served two terms as President of the NBA Board of Governors and helped launch Prime Ticket Network (now FS West/Prime Ticket) in 1985. He got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 in a ceremony he shared with his team's staff, including each of his six children (Jeanie, Johnny, Jim, Janie, Joey and Jesse) who are continually active in the franchise.
Among his numerous philanthropic efforts, Dr. Buss focused on supporting education and the needs of disadvantaged youth and the elderly, leading to honors from such organizations as the City of Hope, NAACP, the B’nai B’rith, United Negro College Fund, United Indian Development Associations, American Hebrew University, National Organization of Women, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and Heart of Los Angeles Youth among many others. Dr. Buss also provided resources for scholarships at Wyoming and USC, and endowed the Magic Johnson Scholarship at Michigan State University.