With Jerry Buss’ passing yesterday, my mind was racing on what I will miss about him. Namely, a whole helluva lot.
I am not going to go into what Dr. Buss’ legacy was on the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. Several other media outlets have done so already, including here, here, here and here.
I’m going to tell you all what Dr. Buss meant to me as a fan.
I grew up a diehard New York Knicks fan, so it is my birthright to hate the Lakers (and the Boston Celtics). It is something that I wear with pride. Since I started watching the NBA in the early 1980s, there was this source of envy I would always cast the Lakers’ way. It more admiration than it was jealousy.
I saw how a franchise was supposed to be run – a franchise that expected nothing short of an NBA title year in and year out. A franchise whose games people attended in order to be seen. A franchise that became the glamour franchise of the NBA. Most importantly, the franchise who gave us “Showtime”.
Those were the ideas of Dr. Buss.
Think about it, NBA cheerleaders were not en vogue until the Laker Girls came along – and I am truly thankful for that. Stars didn’t come out to see the games at courtside until Buss bought the team and marketed Lakers games as THE place to be. You never saw Jack Nicholson and other stars at games today if it wasn’t for Buss.
And sure, Buss did luck out when the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson the same year he bought the team. And he did have a hand in making controversial moves – firing Paul Westhead for Pat Riley at the behest of Magic, choosing Kobe Bryant over Shaquille O’Neal. And there was that hiring Mike Brown thing that a lot of Lakers fans want to forget about.
But one thing you could say about Buss, is that he ALWAYS wanted to win – no matter what the cost. Buss wanted to big-name players on his team – even if it killed his luxury tax – because he was interested in racking up NBA championships. He was essentially the George Steinbrenner of the NBA, except he was more likeable than George.
As for the NBA championships, Buss’ Lakers won 10 of them during his 34-year tenure as owner. Think about that for a minute, that means that roughly one out of every three years, his Lakers won the NBA Finals! How amazing is that?
The NBA and its fans will sorely miss Dr. Buss. In a league full of good owners (the Spurs’ Peter Holt, the Thunder’s Clay Bennett and Grizzlies’ Rober Pera), Buss stood out above them all. He was truly the best owner in the NBA.
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