Remembering Jerry Buss One Year After His Passing

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Remembering Jerry Buss One Year After His Passing
Rich Pilling/Getty Images

It was one year ago today that the Los Angeles Lakers’ beloved owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, passed away at the age of 80.

From humble beginnings in Wyoming to the pinnacle of success in Hollywood, one of sports’ most enduring figures lived out a dream, delivering something special to everyday sports fans.

As Ramona Shelburne wrote for ESPN Los Angeles:

That appeal to the everyman was the key. To him, and to why his story paralleled perfectly with a golden era in Los Angeles that burned so brightly that the city, the Lakers, and everyone who lived through that time will forever be trying to relive and recreate it.

Born during the Great Depression, Gerald Hatten Buss was still an infant when his parents, Lydus and Jessie Buss, divorced.

As a young child, Buss stood in bread lines in bitter cold Wyoming. He moved to Southern California with his mother at the age of nine. Within a few years, Jessie remarried and took the family back to Wyoming.

Buss had gotten a taste of Los Angeles, however, and would never forget. A hardscrabble life on the desolate Wyoming plains eventually led to a science scholarship at the University of Wyoming and a degree in chemistry.

At age 19, Buss married a fellow student, JoAnn Mueller. In 1953 the young couple moved to Southern California, where Buss earned a doctorate in physical chemistry from USC. The couple also raised four children, Johnny, Jim, Jeanie and Janie.

After working in the aerospace industry, Buss partnered with Frank Mariani and jumped into the real estate business. A $1,000 investment in an apartment complex led to increasingly profitable deals, including the discovery of oil on one of his properties.

In 1979, Buss, an avid sports fan, completed a lengthy and complicated purchase and land swap with Jack Kent Cooke.

When all was said and done, Cooke received $67.5 million and the Chrysler Building in New York City. Buss landed the Lakers, the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a sprawling ranch in Kern County.

The show was about to begin.

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