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|Lakers owner Jerry Buss (1933-2013). (Getty Images)|
Lakers owner Jerry Buss has died at the age of 80, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, who confirms a report from the LA Times. Various Los Angeles media reported late last week that the longtime Lakers icon had been hospitalized with a form of cancer.
The 2010 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee purchased the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 and saw the team through its most successful era, including 10 NBA championships. His daughter Jeanie Buss has taken over running the business side of the team in recent seasons, while his son Jim has managed the basketball side.
There was a discrepancy in Buss' exact birthdate. From the LA Times:
A Depression-era baby, Jerry Hatten Buss was born in Salt Lake City on Jan. 27, 1933, although some sources cite 1934 as his birth year. His parents, Lydus and Jessie Buss, divorced when he was an infant.
Born Gerald Hatten Buss, he made his money in real estate after graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1955. He purchased the Lakers, along with the Forum stadium in Inglewood, the NHL Kings, and a 13,000-acre ranch for $67.5 million in 1979, a massive sum at the time. The Lakers were valued in the deal at just $16 million, according to Yahoo Sports. At the time of his death, the franchise had recently been valued by Forbes at more than $1 billion.
Buss enjoyed a close relationship with his star players during his time as owner. He and Magic Johnson formed a particularly close relationship, spending time together away from the court, according to various books written about the era.
Kobe Bryant recently said of Buss:
He's meant everything to me in my career in terms of taking a risk on a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school and then believing in me my entire career. And then for the game itself, the brand of basketball that he implemented in Showtime carried the league," Bryant said at a news conference during the NBA's All-Star weekend.
With the team now facing a void at the top, there will be questions surrounding the future of the team. Many were surprised when Jeanie Buss was not selected as the person to take over operations, and the formation of a new organizational structure comes at a tumultous time for the team on the court.
The Lakers issued the following statement Monday morning:
El SEGUNDO – Dr. Jerry Buss, longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, passed away today at 5:55 am after a long illness. He was 80 years old.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” a statement released on behalf of the Buss family said.
Dr. Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months in a battle which “showed his amazing strength and will to live. 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,” the statement concluded.
He is survived by sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel, all of Southern California; eight grandchildren; former wife JoAnn of Las Vegas; half sister Susan Hall of Phoenix; half brother Micky Brown of Scottsdale; and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyoming.
Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Lakers Youth Foundation or a charity of the donor's choice.
NBA commissioner David Stern released the following statement Monday:
“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.”
Donald Sterling, owner of the cross-town rival Los Angeles Clippers, also released a statement Monday:
"Jerry Buss was a visionary, a winner and a dear friend. Our city will miss him, our league will miss him and the Sterling family will truly miss him."
Pat Riley, who coached four championship teams for Buss in the 80's, also released the following statement:
"Today, in the world of sports, we have lost a true giant. Jerry Buss was more than just an owner. He was one of the great innovators that any sport has ever encountered. He was a true visionary and it was obvious with the Lakers in the 80's that 'Showtime' was more than just Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was really the vision of a man who saw something that connected with a community. I was privileged to be part of that for 10 years and even more grateful for the friendship that has lasted all these many years. I have always come to realize that if it weren't for Dr. Buss, I wouldn't be where I am today. I owe my start in professional coaching to him, and I will always hold him and his memory in the highest of regards. Chris and I truly love Jerry Buss. He was a great friend and will be missed."
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