Buss made Lakers into grand show
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
Here’s what I used to love about covering an NBA Finals game at Jerry Buss’ place.
Among the Los Angeles Lakers pre-game notes and cold, hard statistics would be a glittering list of the Hollywood types scheduled to be in attendance that night. A starting lineup of stardom. Jack Nicholson, et. al.
Showtime. Pat Riley directed it. Magic Johnson led it. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored for it. Oscar winners paid through their noses to watch it. But Buss owned it, lock, stock and limos parked outside.
That’s Dr. Jerry Buss, and we can start right there with how unique this man was, because how many other team owners can you name with a doctorate in chemistry?
But there was more that set him apart. “The greatest owner in the world,” Magic Johnson called him in 2010 after the Lakers finished off the Boston Celtics.
Greatest? That’s a tricky one. How do you measure, by sheer trophy tonnage? In that case, it’s a rout. His teams won 10 championships in three decades, and no need to look for anyone else in any sport who did as much during that time, because there isn’t.
Or by fame? Well, there was always George Steinbrenner to rival that on the other coast. Buss and the Boss. But Buss was Steinbrenner without the off-with-their-heads atmosphere or temperamental bluster. He won more titles, and had less need of an overcoat. Alike in hunger to win and a habit of doing it, they seemed as different in ambience as Laker Girls and pinstripes.
Let’s just agree Buss was one of the greatest, without any burdensome argument. And more importantly, nobody was more right for the sensation he created, or traveled a more interesting road to get there.
He was a child of the Great Depression who ended up captivating the super-rich.
He was the risk taker who began with next to nothing, and wound up with nearly every dream.
He catered to the celebrities at courtside, and … [For more on Lopresti: Jerry Buss made Lakers into grand show, click here.]