trodgers wrote:My whole life has been Buss Ball in LA. Massive blow to me on a personal level.
I want to share my condolences with the Buss Family as well as my teammates and the Laker family. I had the privilege to meet Dr. Buss when I joined the team. He was an extraordinary man who has left an impact on the sports world. His legacy will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Dr. Buss.
Jerry Buss wrote:Some people own sports franchises more as a business, a steppingstone to fame. But I own it mainly because I love it. It's a corny line, but they say, 'When you bleed, you bleed for blue and gold.' I was a Laker fan a long time before I was fortunate enough to own them.
No one ever believes this, because of the steep payroll and courtside glitz, but the Lakers are the closest thing in major professional sports to a mom-and-pop store.
They operate out of the back of a skating rink, below an elevated train, and their executive offices are no more deluxe than an insurance agent's. When former coach Mike Brown first saw his new digs, he asked: "This is it?" Center Dwight Howard asked: "This is the Lakers?" They weren't disappointed, just surprised.
"We don't have all the bells and whistles," longtime athletic trainer Gary Vitti said. "We don't have all the neon lights."
General manager Mitch Kupchak recently hung two flat-screen televisions on his wall, hooked up to a computer, but only because the retail price had dropped.
"Ten or 15 years ago, they probably would have been $8,000 each," Kupchak said. "It was ridiculous. You wouldn't consider that. Now you can go into a Best Buy and get one for $700."
Outsiders might laugh at the head of franchise valued at $1 billion fretting over the cost of a TV, but Kupchak does not understand why.
"Maybe there's a corporate environment out there where it doesn't matter," he said. "But we are a family business."
The corporatization of sports is widespread. Practice facilities look like Fortune 500 campuses. Public relations reps wear secret-service-style earpieces. Assistant coaches are muzzled. Chairmen give way to CEOs who give way to presidents. The Lakers, under Jerry Buss, went the other way. His son, Jim, works on one end of the facility and runs basketball operations. His daughter, Jeanie, works on the other end and runs the business side. A second son, Joey, oversees the Development League affiliate.
There are a lot of reasons why the Lakers remain the most popular team in the NBA, even when they're four games under .500, and most of them have to do with championships and Hall of Famers and celebrity fans. But part of their appeal, especially in Los Angeles, is the connection they've maintained with their consumers.
The last time I saw Jerry Buss, up close, was a couple years ago in Terminal 1 at LAX. He was getting off a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix. He was wearing a Lakers warm-up jacket that appeared to be bought in 1982. Fellow passengers stared at him, amused, and he nodded back. The message was unmistakable. He didn't care about private planes and three-piece suits. He cared about his basketball team.
[Photo Gallery: Jerry Buss through the years]
Buss died at 5:55 a.m. PT Monday at 80, after an 18-month battle with cancer, making the most disappointing period in Lakers history exponentially more painful. They were coming off a loss to the Clippers, the team Buss always dominated, and getting ready for a game against the Celtics, the team Buss always hated. It will crush Kobe Bryant that he could not deliver a 17th trophy to the Lakers' patriarch, matching the Celtics, but in a backward way this wretched season is another testament to arguably the greatest owner in sports history.
Over the past year, Buss finalized a $3 billion local television contract, spit in the face of a putative new luxury tax and hiked the payroll over $100 million with the additions of Howard and Steve Nash. These Lakers have obviously fallen on their face, yet still they have driven TV ratings, Web clicks and water-cooler conversations in a way no other team could. Showtime exists in different forms. Sometimes, it's a soap opera.
Buss built the Lakers to win, of course, but he also wanted them to entertain. He fashioned them as a mirror of the city he discovered as a 9-year-old boy from Wyoming, sunny and glamorous and at times over-the-top. He signed Magic Johnson to a 25-year-contract, found the Laker Girls and filled the front row at The Forum with more A-list actors than The Shrine. He partied at the Playboy Mansion and surrounded himself with as many college-aged women as 7-foot centers. Friends and I were once sitting at a table in a Las Vegas lounge with a few girls when they all stood up and shouted, "Bussy!" because he had walked in the door. We never saw them again. He was probably 70 at the time.
Buss was simultaneously a member of the elite and a man of the people. In the mid-1980s, he launched a local sports channel called Prime Ticket that allowed fans to watch home games on their basic cable package, while most other teams were charging extra for the privilege. The Lakers became the bridge from Compton to Bel Air, a common thread linking a sprawling and stratified metropolis.
Nuggets coach George Karl likes to compare Lakers games to Broadway shows, with all the lights dimmed except the ones over the court, and the conspicuous absence of anybody shooting T-shirts at your face. Dozens of venues are more raucous, but not one is more cool, and that won't change even if the Clippers win the next three championships. The Staples Center atmosphere is a manifestation of the Jerry Buss vision.
[NBA world reacts to Buss' death]
The more you study sports, the more you realize that owners mean everything. The right coach and player can carry a team for five or 10 years. But it takes a truly committed owner to carry that team for, let's say, 30 years. Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, at the dawn of Showtime, and when they were slipping in the mid-'90s, he signed Shaquille O'Neal and drafted Bryant. When they were slipping again in the mid-2000s, he traded for Pau Gasol. He always had the answer. He always cut the check.
The Lakers were quick to release a statement from the Buss family Monday saying it would honor its father's wishes and keep the franchise. Jim and Jeanie will be expected to guide the club as effectively as their dad, though that may be impossible.
This year, Lakers games have been broadcast on a new local channel called Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and at the outset of the season there was still no agreement to air the games on DirecTV. Such standoffs have become common across the country and fans have gone months, even years, without being able to watch their favorite teams at home. I don't know what role Jerry Buss played, if any, but no one in L.A. had to wait months or years.
The dispute was resolved in two weeks.
I'm joining the communist now.. I don't like World peace...
Kobe Bryant passed on trade after this lesson from Jerry Buss: It's good to be a Laker for life
28 minutes ago...
Kobe Bryant and Jerry Buss won five NBA championships together. (NBAE/Getty Images)
After all the anger and angst and fury of the immediate post-Shaq era had inspired Kobe Bryant to make a trade demand, Jerry Buss finally called his superstar guard to the owner's home in the Los Angeles hills on an autumn evening in 2007.
The Los Angeles Lakers had found a trade for Bryant, but Buss warned him that it wasn't to one of his selected destinations.
"Detroit," Buss said.
The Lakers had agreed to a deal to send Bryant to the Pistons and needed Bryant's approval to waive his no-trade clause. The package included a combination of Detroit's core players and draft picks, sources say. Buss and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak needed an answer soon, because they refused to let the issue linger into training camp.
Looking back, Bryant isn't sure it would've mattered whether it was Detroit or Chicago, Dallas or New York. In that moment, in Buss' house in the hills, it washed over Bryant how much staying a Laker for life meant to him, how no matter how dire the state of the franchise seemed, that Buss had a history of restoring the Lakers to championship contention.
"It hit me that I didn't really want to walk out on Dr. Buss," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports on Monday.
[Related: Lakers owner Jerry Buss dead at 80]
Months later, Kupchak honored Buss' faith and made the trade for Pau Gasol. Soon, the Lakers were back in the NBA Finals three straight years and winning two more titles. Soon, Bryant was back to understanding the inevitable essence of Jerry Buss' prowess: In the end, the old man was a force of nature.
Buss built and continued to rebuild the Lakers into title contenders since buying the team in 1979. (AP)The Lakers change forever now with Buss' death. For all the historic talent and genius and ego melded into champions under his watch, Buss was the connection from title to title, the star of stars. From Magic to Kareem, from Riley to West, from Shaq to Kobe, Buss was the self-made icon who commanded the biggest respect in the room.
He didn't come blustering loudly, the way George Steinbrenner did with the New York Yankees. He was the ultimate California cool, a playboy with an understanding that Hollywood commanded celebrity with its stars, glitz with its winning.
Nevertheless, the substance of the man – a most American rags-to-riches tale – was forever the underlying, undeniable ethic of the Lakers. In so many ways, they never went corporate. They were a mom-and-pop store, a family business.
In the wake of Buss' death, the most pressing question centers on the ability of his children to work together, hold onto the franchise and operate it in a manner with which it will remain in the sport's elite.
In a perfect world, the Lakers would be run with the stewardship of Buss' daughter, Jeanie. She's earned the right. She inherited her father's social sensibilities and, more importantly, worked to earn the business acumen to run the organization. Nevertheless, Jerry anointed his son, Jim, to lord over the basketball operations, and, ultimately, it could be the undoing of the franchise.
Now, the Lakers understand that relying upon Bryant as the franchise player is coming to an end in the next couple of years, and Dwight Howard must be convinced to stay and be the cornerstone for the future.
[Watch: Remembering Jerry Buss]
Buss had been seriously ill, less connected to the franchise in the past year, but you'd have to believe at a different time in his ownership that he would've forged a relationship with Howard that would've made it impossible for him to leave. Those days are done; Jim isn't Jerry. No one will ever be Jerry Buss again.
In that meeting in the fall of 2007, near the start of training camp, Buss presented Bryant with a scenario of Bryant's own request: a trade out of Los Angeles, out of the franchise that drafted and groomed him and taught him to be a champion.
Even now, Kobe Bryant still thinks about that time in his life when he was too impatient, when he failed to give Buss' own history and greatness its proper due. Whatever the owner had told him that night about a trade – Detroit or Chicago, Dallas or wherever – it probably wouldn't have mattered.
For all Bryant's impatience, there was still such an immense part of him that was comforted in the company of the Los Angeles Lakers' patriarch. True for Bryant, true for all of them.
[Related: Kobe, ex-Lakers remember Jerry Buss' lasting impact]
No one walks away from the Lakers, from Buss, and does so without a deep, lingering regret. These were the Showtime Lakers, and they would be again with Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. In his 17th season, Bryant's belief that he'll never wear another uniform is unwavering.
Jerry Buss gave Bryant the gift of Jerry West trading for him on draft day in '96, of Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson, of five NBA championships that perhaps wouldn't have been available anywhere else.
All these years later, Kobe Bryant is blessed to know that he never walked out on Dr. Buss, that he'll share something with the late, great owner forever: Lakers for life – and beyond.
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