Jerry Buss, the flamboyant owner of the Los Angeles Lakers who personified the team’s “showtime” legacy of the 1980s, died Monday. He was 80.
Buss had been struggling with cancer over the last year and a half, but the cause of his death was announced as kidney failure by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Since 1979, Buss led the Lakers to an international extension of Hollywood glitz and excess. He was at the center of the acquisition of Hall of Fame talents like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The Great Western Forum and then the Staples Center became a must-be-seen venue among movie stars and other celebrities.
“He was a visionary, he was a trailblazer,” Laker great Johnson said during an interview on “SportsCenter” Monday afternoon. “He did things that were, at that time, people thought wasn’t cool, wasn’t proper. He was a man who walked the walk and talked the talk. He produced championships, because he was the most competitive owner you could ever meet in your life.”
Under Buss, the Lakers made the NBA Finals 16 times with 10 titles between 1980 and 2010. The Lakers are easily the NBA’s winningest franchise since he bought the club, which is now run largely by Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss, two of his six children.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” the Buss family said in a statement issued by the Lakers.
“It was our father’s often-stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well, and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”
NBA commissioner David Stern said: “The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come. More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”