Jerry Buss' 7 Greatest Achievements as LA Lakers Owner
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times reports Buss passed away due to an "undisclosed form" of cancer.
For the Lakers, Buss was more than just a cash-laden figurehead; he was a pioneer. Upon purchasing the team in 1979, he completely rewrote the rule book on running a franchise and winning championships.
He took financial risks few would have considered making, assembled convocations of an unbeatable magnitude and changed the landscape of what it took to win in the NBA altogether.
Behind him, he has left a legacy, both as a captivating patriarch and humble human being. It's this very legacy that ensures he will never be forgotten.
Buss may be gone, but his impact on the Lakers, on this fine game of basketball, is everlasting.
Hollywood's Financial Boom
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The Lakers as we know them were not that way when Jerry Buss first purchased them.
Per Yahoo! Sports' Steve Springer, Buss purchased the franchise in 1979, along with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the Inglewood Forum and the 13,000-acre Raljon Ranch in Nevada, for $67.5 million. When broken down, the cost of the Lakers was about $16 million.
Reflecting on this purchase, Buss admitted that the interest in attending games wasn't exactly a loyal pastime.
"At that time," Buss recounted (via Springer), "people were saying, 'Don't bother to go to the game. Just pop in on the telecast for the last three minutes and you can see the whole thing.'"
Buss wanted to change that, and change it he did.
Today, Forbes estimates the value of the Lakers to be $1 billion, second in the league only to the New York Knicks. Along with New York, Los Angeles is one of the first teams in the NBA to ever be valued at a billion dollars.
To think, Buss helped transform the Lakers from a $16 million entity into a billion-dollar enterprise.
Quite the return on a 34-year investment, wouldn't you say?
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It started with a vision and ended with five NBA titles.
Jerry Buss ushered in a new era of basketball upon taking the reins of the Lakers franchise.
Riding the backs of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Los Angeles won five NBA championships in less than a decade, including back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988.
It was during this time that Buss also turned Lakers games into a place to be. He introduced cheerleaders and live music into the equation, making the team equally as entertaining as it was competitive.
The ever effective sideshows in between whistles, coupled with an uptempo style of basketball, left fans from both Los Angeles and the rest of the Association smitten. The remnants of his once unconventional schematic are now a league-wide fixture.
No longer are NBA teams just that. They're athletic-driven factions, yes, but they're also a source of entertainment, a meaningful distraction. Fans aren't just fans either; they're consumers, digesting a brand—one that may have never been created in Los Angeles or anywhere else without the contemporary ideals of Dr. Buss.
Changing the Way We Watch the Lakers
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Jerry Buss didn't just change the way games were watched in arenas. He changed the way they were watched on televisions as well.
In 1985, he co-founded the Prime Ticket network, which put the Lakers—Chick Hearn and all—on basic cable.
Such a move was largely unprecedented. At the time, he was straying away from the norm that insisted sports be televised through "subscription services."
Moving the Lakers to basic cable ensured easier access for fans and thus more exposure for Buss' brainchild, the Showtime movement.
Just how influential was this move, you ask?
It helped earn Buss a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2006. And he wasn't done.
During February of 2011, Time Warner Cable struck what was deemed a "game-changing" deal with the Lakers, purchasing the television rights to their games for the next 20 years.
The deal, which began in time for the 2012-13 season, reportedly pays the Lakers $3 billion over the next two decades.
As minor as his inclusion on a famed sidewalk may have seemed, Buss has helped turn the boys in purple and gold into a multi-billion-dollar broadcast, changing the way we watch basketball forever, from all possible platforms.
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Phil Jackson won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls before taking a year off from coaching during the 1998-99 campaign.
Fast-forward to the 1999 offseason. Jerry Buss played a pivotal role in convincing Jackson to take to meandering the sidelines in Los Angeles.
Who wouldn't want to coach the Lakers? Hollywood was the birthplace of Showtime, after all.
At the time, though, the Lakers hadn't won an NBA title since 1988. In fact, they had only made it past the second round three times in the previous 10 years.
But in came Jackson, along with his triangle offense. He led the Lakers to three championships with Kobe and Shaq and two more upon his return to the sidelines yet again with Kobe and Pau Gasol.
Jackson's fractured relationship with the franchise aside, that Buss continued to be the front office's version of clutch by snagging him is incredible.
For all we know, the Lakers could be one to five championships lighter if he didn't.
Hall of Fame
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In 2010, Jerry Buss was elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
During his speech, he remained the ever modest man that he has always been, paying homage to personal influences and players that he encountered during his time as the Lakers owner.
Though inducted into the Hall of Fame as a contributor, Buss' selection puts him in the company of greats like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and the 1992 Dream Team.
By that point, Buss had won his 10th title as an owner, and the Lakers had built an illustrious brand, both financed and endorsed by Buss himself.
"He is a master at building a team," said Magic Johnson at the time of Buss' induction (via Steve Springer). "He has put the Lakers right up there with the New York Yankees as the top brands in sports."
A master of his craft indeed.
He wasn't a player, but given the impact he had on his team and the NBA in general, I'm not sure he could have left as significant an imprint even if he was.
Resilience in Turmoil
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Not an accomplishment, you say?
Through his own devotion, Jerry Buss helped build one of the most polarizing organizations and loyal fanbases in all of sports.
Most know him as the owner who was willing to do whatever it took to preserve the state of his franchise. Few understand that said commitment extended beyond the realms of finances.
The quintessential example of such unwavering assiduity came during the 2011 NBA lockout.
Buss, who served two terms as president of the NBA's Board of Governors, was beyond actively involved in negotiations. He traveled to and from negotiations so much that he developed blood clots in his legs.
We're talking about a man over the age of 75 who could have left the due diligence to his children or hired minions. Instead, he decided to risk his physical well-being for the sake of his team.
Such dedication is deserving of a shrine, though most would say it was just Buss being Buss.
10 NBA Titles
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Dedication, hard work and perseverance mean little if you have nothing to show for it. But Buss has something to show for it.
Under the control of Jerry Buss and his continuously open wallet and mind, the Lakers won 10 NBA titles.
Returning to our friend Steve Springer, those 10 championships render Buss the "single winningest owner in sports history." Not just the NBA, but sports history.
Let that sink in, because it means something; it encompasses everything.
League statement: "The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) February 18, 2013
Buss' tenure in Hollywood has not been marked strictly by financial gain. The Lakers are so valuable because they've been so successful, because they've won—and not just championships.
Since Buss purchased the Lakers, no team in the NBA has won more games. Los Angeles has emerged the victor in 1,786 contests since the 1979-80 season, 124 more than the second-place San Antonio Spurs (1,662).
So when we sit here and assert that Buss was committed to winning at all costs, it's not insipid conjecture.
It's the truth.