With all of the talk of a possible Los Angeles Lakers dynasty, we must take a moment of pause and realize the real secret to the Lakers success. There is one reason and one reason only why the Lakers repeated this year and won another NBA title: Dr. Jerry Buss.
Even with his induction today into the NBA Hall of Fame, it still seems like the man does not get the appreciation he deserves.
Quite simply, Dr. Buss is the greatest owner in all of professional sports.
Bold statement? Not at all.
Since 1979, the year he bought the Lakers, the team has had 16 Finals appearance in 30 years. Try that one on.
That is exactly the number of times Dr. Buss’ team has made it to the championship. Over half the years the man has owned the Lakers, they have played for a title.
Unheard of and a mind-boggling stat!
But, none of this is luck. And, it’s not just talent. There is more to winning than appears. This is a deliberate intention to be the best.
Dr. Buss lives by this mantra.
Everything about the Lakers success comes down from the top. Dr. Buss sets the tone for his organization, and raises the standard for this legendary franchise.
Sure, he bought a team with history and success, but he has elevated the Lakers to one of the greatest franchises in all of professional sports.
There was no Magic Johnson's Showtime before Dr. Buss. Magic had only been drafted, won on a coin flip, when Buss bought the team.
The Lakers went Hollywood only from a focused effort by Dr. Buss and his staff to appeal to the stars and famous people of LA.
He believed in marketing and the entertainment value of basketball. And, he delivered.
Laker games are must see events, the team dominates the NBA headlines, and its players are rock stars.
Home games are always the place to be.
Still to this day, the Lakers withhold a certain number of floor seats that they keep reserved for the famous people of tinsel town.
And, for certain games, that doling out of those hard to get tickets starts with A-list movie stars.
The Lakers decide who sits courtside, beyond all of their season ticket holders.
See what happens when a TV star and a Movie star vie for a courtside seat to a playoff or Finals game. The Movie star wins every time.
This is just one move in hundreds of the invisible hand of Dr. Buss.
We all know everything about all of the Lakers, down to what they eat, drive and music they like. But the man behind it all, the real reason for the team’s success, even the most die-hard fan knows little.
That should change. Going into the Hall of Fame is a great first step.
Dr. Buss did not build the Lakers with luck but with hard work. He did the same thing with his sports team that he did in his business life. He outthought and out worked his competition. And, most importantly, he set a standard of excellence for everyone, organization, players and fans, to follow.
Dr. Buss made his money in real estate but he’s been a hard worker all his life. He graduated from the University of Wyoming with an undergraduate degree but would move to Southern California where he attended USC. There, he got a PHD in chemistry.
Yes, the owner of the Lakers was a chemist. And, that’s where the Dr. comes from.
Dr. Buss started working for the Bureau of Mines, then worked in the Aerospace industry. But real estate is where he would make his empire that allowed him to buy the Lakers in 1979.
The key to Dr. Buss’ success lies in him hiring the best people and his willingness to put the best product on the floor. His track record, both in real estate and the Lakers, is that quality matters.
That is why he will open up his pocketbook to retain top talent. Look at last summer, stepping up and resigning Lamar Odom.
And, this year’s free agent period, Dr. Buss and his organization continued to improve the defending champion Lakers.
All the talk of Phil Jackson taking a pay cut disappeared after they won against Boston. Dr. Buss quickly had no problem paying Phil. And, rightfully so.
Also, the Lakers made another key move in paying Derek Fisher, thus retaining a key ingredient for their title runs.
Lastly, Dr. Buss was willing to again pay massive luxury tax for exceeding the NBA’s salary cap to sign quality, I mean quality, bench players.
They signed Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff.
Finally, the Lakers resigned Shannon Brown, even though they paid for it in the salary column.
All these signings point to only one thing: Dr. Buss’ commitment to winning,
There aren’t many other owners in all of professional sports that spend on the level of Dr. Buss. He not only wants excellence, but performance.
That’s why, even this year, he didn’t sit pat, he was willing to go over the salary cap again to make these free agent signings.
No other owner gets more production out of his product. Go back to those 16 Finals appearances. His teams walked away with 10 of those championships. That is 10 titles in 30 years or a .333 average. If he was a baseball hitter, he’d be headed to Canton, instead of Springfield, Mass. today.
No other owner can claim such a track record. But if you think it is all about money, it isn’t. Think how many owners who spend but get nothing (i.e.. Mark Cuban, Daniel Synder, etc.)
Dr. Buss hires the best people and lets them do their work.
He is a master delegator.
This comes from his real estate days and nothing changed with the Lakers. He gets the best people, sets the standard he wants for both excellence and quality of the product and then gets out of the way.
He only gets involved when performance lags. Otherwise, he doesn’t meddle.
Name another top owner who works this way?
Not the Yankees and they are the only franchise close the to Lakers in both performance and spending.
We must really seize this moment, really appreciate what we have in Dr. Buss.
He won’t be around forever. That is not to say he hasn’t instilled his values, his core beliefs in his children who now run the majority of day to day operations of the Lakers.
But, can they pick up the sword and keep charging ahead?
Only time will tell.
For now, we have to give the man who is really responsible for all of the Lakers success his due.
Dr. Buss is the real Lakers dynasty.