Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Dies

LA TIMES: Jerry Buss, the longtime owner of the Lakers whose penchant for showmanship helped turn the game of basketball into “Showtime” and who led the team to 10 NBA championships, died Monday. He was 80.

A self-made millionaire who built his fortune in real estate, Buss bought the Lakers in 1979. He charted his successful course with marquee players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Hall of Fame coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, celebrities sitting courtside and 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."

It was a remarkable winning streak for a man who dug his way out of a hardscrabble youth. A Depression-era baby, Jerry Hatten Buss was born Jan. 27, 1933, in Salt Lake City. His parents divorced when he was an infant. His mother struggled to make ends meet as a waitress in tiny Evanston, Wyo., and Buss remembered standing in food lines in the bitter cold. Later, Buss earned a science scholarship to the University of Wyoming. At 19 he married a coed named JoAnn Mueller, and they would eventually have four children: John, Jim, Jeanie and Janie. By the mid-1950s, the couple had moved to Southern California, where Buss earned a doctorate in chemistry at USC. He worked briefly in the aerospace industry, and in the late 1950s, he and a colleague, Frank Mariani, tried their hand at real estate. They scraped together a few thousand dollars to buy a 14-unit apartment house in West Los Angeles and, to save money, did all the repairs themselves. Their real estate company kept growing as they invested in residential properties, hotels and office buildings. In 1979, Buss and his partners bought the Lakers (along with the Forum in Inglewood), the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67 million from Jack Kent Cooke.

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