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Lakers owner Jerry Buss dies at 80

Jerry Buss built a glittering life at the intersection of sports and Hollywood.

After growing up in poverty in Wyoming, he earned success in academia, aerospace and real estate before discovering his favourite vocation when he bought the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979. While Buss wrote the checks and fostered partnerships with two generations of basketball greats, the Lakers won 10 NBA titles and became a glamorous global brand.

With a scientist's analytical skills, a playboy's flair, a businessman's money-making savvy and a die-hard hoops fan's heart, Buss fashioned the Lakers into a remarkable sports entity. They became a nightly happening, often defined by just one word coined by Buss: Showtime.

"His impact is felt worldwide," said Kobe Bryant, who has spent nearly half his life working for Buss.

Buss, who shepherded his NBA team from the Showtime dynasty of the 1980s to the current Bryant era while becoming one of the most important and successful owners in pro sports, died Monday. He was 80.

"Think about the impact that he's had on the game and the decisions he's made, and the brand of basketball he brought here with Showtime and the impact that had on the sport as a whole," Bryant said a few days ago. "Those vibrations were felt to a kid all the way in Italy who was 6 years old, before basketball was even global."

Under Buss' leadership, the star-studded, trophy-winning Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a signature cultural representation of Los Angeles. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy to Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

"I am blessed with a wonderful family who have helped me and guided me every step of the way," Buss said in 2010 at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "This support is the best anybody could ever have."

Buss is survived by his six children: sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse, and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel. He had eight grandchildren.

Arrangements are pending for a funeral and memorial service, likely at Staples Center or a nearby theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

The Canadian Press


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