The Los Angeles Lakers will conduct Dr. Jerry Buss Night at Sunday evening’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center, coinciding with the 86th anniversary of their late owner’s birth.
All fans in attendance will receive a Jerry Buss coin. The Lakers annually designate their home game closest to the anniversary of his birth as Dr. Jerry Buss Night.
“He was the best of the best,” former Lakers general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations Jerry West told City News Service in 2014.
“My association with him, for so many years, was filled with fun, excitement, a lot of success. I think the way he handled his success was the most important thing to me. He was a person that took great pride in the Lakers and under his stewardship, this franchise prospered like no other during that era.”
In 1979, Buss purchased the Lakers, Forum, Los Angeles Kings hockey team and a 13,000-acre Kern County ranch from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million, then the largest transaction in sports history.
Forbes calculated the value of the Lakers in February 2018 at $3.3 billion, second among NBA teams behind the New York Knicks, who are valued at $3.6 billion, and tied for eighth among all the world’s professional teams with the NFL’s New York Giants.
The Lakers are mostly are owned by a family trust established by Buss before his death on Feb. 18, 2013, at the age of 80 from kidney failure after a long battle with cancer.
When Buss purchased the Lakers, they had won one championship in the previous 25 seasons and had lost nine times in the NBA Finals during that span, including four seven-game series.
Buss combined show business glamour and sex appeal with shrewd personnel moves — both on and off the court — to make the Lakers what then-NBA Commissioner David Stern once said was “the standard by which all L.A. sports franchises and most American franchises get measured.”
In Buss’ first season as owner, the Lakers won the NBA championship, then added four more titles in the following eight seasons, as the Magic Johnson-led fast-breaking “Showtime” offense enthralled both the general public and celebrities like Oscar-winning actor Jack Nicholson and other Hollywood celebrities who became regulars in the courtside seats.
Under Buss, the Lakers became the first NBA team to have a dance squad, the Laker Girls, who also developed a devoted following and inspired creation of similar squads by other teams in the league.
The Lakers won three more NBA championships from 2000-2002 with teams led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Bryant-led teams won titles in 2009 and 2010.
The Lakers’ 10 championships under Buss’ ownership were the most by a team in any of the four major North American professional leagues since he purchased the team. Buss’ 10 championships as an owner are also the most in NBA history.
Born Jan. 27, 1933, in Salt Lake City and raised in the tiny mining and sheep ranching community of Kemmerer, Wyoming, Buss came to Southern California to attend graduate school at USC, where he received a doctorate in physical chemistry.
Buss taught at USC and worked in the aerospace industry, then joined with aerospace engineer Frank Mariani in forming Mariani-Buss Associates, a real estate firm, whose initial goal was to provide Buss with income to pursue his love of teaching. Instead, Buss parlayed an original $1,000 investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building into a fortune that would enable him to enter professional sports ownership.
Buss made his initial foray into professional sports in 1974 when he purchased full control of the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis.
Buss was selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006, honored in the television category for co-founding with the late cable pioneer Bill Daniels the Prime Ticket regional cable sports channel in 1985, which showed Lakers’ home games, along with other events from the Forum, college sports and other events.
Despite others’ fears that televising home games would hurt attendance, Prime Ticket generated millions of dollars annually through the sale of television rights fees and ended up bolstering the Lakers’ attendance by creating greater interest in the team.