David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles-- Jerry Buss, in Los Angeles, was simply synonymous with championships.
He loved to party and gamble and travel and savor the many flavors of the world, but he also loved to win, and he did what he could to keep the Los Angeles Lakers adding to their NBA titles.
Buss passed away Monday, according to one of his sons, Jim Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of player personnel.
Jerry Buss battled cancer for a long time, and his death will be felt deeply in the Lakers family and throughout the NBA.
Buss -- listed as born in 1933 by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 2010, and 1934 by many other sites --- was generous with players, and generally treated them like royalty during and after their careers. Many players, past and present, had been visiting him at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in the past weeks.
Even when NBA rules put penalties on large payrolls, Buss kept adding to the Lakers' payroll, willing to pay the luxury taxes required for going over the salary cap if it meant a better chance to win another championship.
In all, the Lakers won 10 titles under Buss' ownership, featuring some of the biggest stars in the league's history - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
At a certain point, Buss' Lakers became the dominant sports franchise in town, eclipsing the popularity of the venerable Los Angeles Dodgers. In its latest NBA valuations, Forbes last month listed the Lakers at $1 billion, second only to the New York Knicks at $1.1 billion.
Buss didn't speak much in public, but his shrewdness was evident in the choices he made for the Lakers - Jerry West as general manager, Phil Jackson as coach.
And when a tough decision reared its head - keep Bryant or O'Neal - Buss traded the aging O'Neal, kept Bryant and then watched Bryant lead the Lakers to two more championships.
Buss loved the entertainment aspect of the team, and his team featured sexy dancers - the Laker Girls - long before that was a standard of the league. He also favored an entertaining style, and he was in his glory when Johnson orchestrated the fast-breaking Showtime Laker teams that won five titles in the 1980s.
Buss and Jackson occasionally clashed over Jackson's methodical triangle offense, which became boring when the Lakers were short of talent following O'Neal's departure. But he fired and re-hired Jackson, the so-called Zen Master, seemingly always keeping the business aspect of the deals separate from the personal. Jackson and Buss' daughter, Jeannie, were a steady item during the coach's two tenures with the Lakers.
Buss made his fortune in the run-up on real estate in California in the 1960s and '70s and bought the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979.
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