The following is just a small sampling from the reaction around the Internet (and around the world) on the passing of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community… (He) showed his amazing strength and will to live. It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”
—Statement from the Buss family
“The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come. More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”
—NBA Commissioner David Stern
“I’m deeply saddened over the loss of the great Dr. Jerry Buss. He was a dear friend, keen mentor and brilliant businessman. He’ll always be remembered for his dedication in bringing the best to the purple and gold and I’m proud to have been part of his honorable legacy. My heart and prayers go out to the Buss family and friends. Dr. Buss will be deeply missed by this big man.”
“I had the pleasure of working with Jerry closely for the last 10 years on league matters. He was a wonderful business colleague, brilliant competitor and became a good friend. Although our teams competed in two Finals during that time, the friendship never wavered. He will be greatly missed and the entire Celtics organization offers condolences to the Buss family and Lakers organization.”
—Celtics’ CEO Wyc Grousbeck
Magic Johnson shredded Jim Buss — son of Jerry Buss and the guy running the Los Angeles Lakers now — on national television. And he spoke for a lot of Lakers fans when he did it.
Magic said he trusted Jerry, not Jim. He said Mike Brown was a mistake hire from the start and to replace him with Mike D’Antoni when Phil Jackson wanted the job was another mistake. And Lakers fans everywhere were nodding along.
But Kobe Bryant came to the younger Buss’ defense. From the Los Angeles Times.
“[Johnson’s] opinion is valued greater than most others because of what he’s done here with this franchise. I can only speak from my perspective in my dealings with Jim. He’s been phenomenal,” Bryant said. “He’s seemingly made all the right choices. Going back in time, I’m sure he would have called me and consulted me on the Mike Brown hiring but that is what it is. Other than that, he’s been behind some pretty good moves, some pretty good trades for this organization.”
Jim Buss clearly wants a ring to validate his spin as head guy for the Lakers. He found a way — and was willing to pay — to bring in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard while keeping Kobe and Pau Gasol. When he realized (later than he should have) that Mike Brown was not the coach to get this team a ring, he made an aggressive move to get someone he thought could.
That person was never going to be Phil Jackson. The relationship with Jackson and Buss was rocky, when Jackson left Buss cleared out a lot of people in the organization believed to be “Jackson’s people,” and Buss only asked Jackson about the job because they thought he’d say no and they could tell fans “hey, we tried.” When Jackson was interested they were caught in a spot they didn’t predict.
That is the one big difference so far from the Jerry to Jim Buss transition — Jerry was playing chess. He was three moves ahead in his mind and had thought out the possible outcomes of moves. Then he would act, and take risks, but they were calculated. This didn’t feel like that at all. Jim Buss has felt reactionary. But with enough money to cover his mistakes.
Lakers owner since 1979 Jerry Buss has been in poor health at points in the last year and the Lakers confirmed the 78-year-old had surgery last week.
What kind of surgery? They won’t say. From the Los Angeles Times.
“He did have surgery and it went fine,” Lakers spokesman John Black said. “He’s not home yet, but he’s expected to make a full recovery….”
Buss’ son, Jim, the Lakers’ executive vice president of player personnel, on Friday told Times columnist T.J. Simers that his father got “out of surgery 14 hours ago” when the owner called Friday morning wanting details about the Lakers’ acquisition of Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.
“I was with him [Thursday] night and he was basically incoherent and he was going to be like that for two or three days,” Buss told Simers.
Remember Jerry Buss was hospitalized last month for dehydration.
He has turned the running of the Lakers over to his son Jim Buss, someone not really trusted at first by Lakers fans because they didn’t know him as anything other than as a horse-training partier (they did know Jeanie Buss, who had worked to cultivate a relationship with the fans).
However, the Lakers moves this summer to land Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have given Jim Buss some real credibility with the large Lakers fan base who think it could be like father/like son.