A big loss for L.A. sports this morning.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss, 80, died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from kidney failure, confirmed his assistant Bob Steiner. He had been hospitalized since last week for cancer treatment.
Dr. Buss, as he preferred to be called, bought the Lakers in 1979 and transformed the sport in addition to helping the team win 10 NBA titles. Dr. Buss is also credited with turning the NBA into an entertainment powerhouse.
"Dr. Buss had a vision of showtime," said author Roland Lazenby, who has written five books on the Lakers. "He essentially connected this very backwater business of the NBA to the entertainment of Hollywood. I think one thing in particular is the sexuality of that: He invented the Laker girls, he created this show, and with that he brought this sexuality to the NBA that was somewhat jarring for other franchises."
One of the impacts he had on the game was the use of the court side seats to advertise the game. Before, these prime seats would go to press or media, but now only celebrities, VIPs, and those who can afford to shell out big bucks for tickets are privy to the court side area in constant view of the television cameras.
"One of the things he helped to do was to capitalize NBA teams as he began selling those seats on a nightly basis for hundreds of dollars then thousands of dollars," said Lazenby. "The whole financial structure began to shift, as did the seating for the press which went from court side to the upper deck."
In recent years Buss had moved aside from his once-prominent role to allow his sons Jim and John, and his daughter Jeanie run the team.
Last year was a tumultuous year for the team, with the firing of coach Mike Brown and the hiring of Mike D'Antoni. So what can fans expect now that Buss is out of the picture and his three grown children at the helm?
"There's been a sort of a tug of war all along," said Lazenby. "Jeanie and Jim both have a large role with the team, and so trying to decide which way they go forward will be a big factor. The Lakers have always been the kind of organization – for all the glitz – that counted paper clips, so it will be interesting to see what happens from this point on."