Jerry Buss, the long-time owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, has died aged 80. The self-made millionaire made his fortune in real estate and bought the legendary west-coast NBA outfit in 1979, charting the team's success with marquee signings Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and, of course, Shaquille O'Neal.
Buss, who led the team to 10 championships, turned the game of basketball into "Showtime," and was the brains behind getting celebrities sitting courtside and having the Laker Girls dancing during timeouts. "I really tried to create a Laker image, a distinct identity," Buss said. "I mean, the Lakers are pretty damn Hollywood."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Buss - who died on Monday (February 18, 2013) - earned a science scholarship to the University of Wyoming, marrying a co-ed named JoAnn Mueller at just 19. They went on to have four children together. He worked briefly in the aerospace industry though began trying his hand at real estate with colleague Frank Mariani in the late 1950s. Scraping together a few thousand bucks to buy an apartment house in West Los Angeles, they did all the repairs themselves and soon enough the business began to grow.
Buss snapped up the Lakers (along with the Forum in Inglewood), the NHL's Kings and 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67 million in 1979. At the time, the NBA was in a bad state and many teams stood on the brink of bankruptcy. After picking with Magic Johnson in the Michigan State draft, the Lakers began to win. "Jerry Buss helped set the league on the course it is on today," NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "Remember, he showed us it was about 'Showtime,' the notion that an arena can become the focal point for not just basketball, but entertainment. He made it the place to see and be seen."
Jerry Buss is survived by his children John, Jane, Jeanie, Jim, Jesse and Joey.