There are a lot of incredible stats about the Lakers’ historic greatness, but this one is my favorite: Between 1949 and 2010 – a 62-year stretch – the Lakers appeared in half of all NBA Finals. Half! That is just astonishing.
And for the second half of that run, Jerry Buss owned the franchise.
Sometime near the end of the stretch, Jerry Buss ceded power to his son Jim Buss, and Jerry died last year. Since, on and off the court, the Lakers have been a bit off.
Mark Cuban, via Dwain Price of Full-Court Press:
“Jerry Buss was the Lakers, so I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” Cuban said prior to the Mavs’ 94-89 win over Boston on Monday. “I don’t think there was a smarter owner in the history of the NBA than Jerry Buss, so that’s tough to replace.
“I don’t think people realize just how good of an owner Jerry was. I looked up to him a lot. Absolutely. So I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers.”
At times, I’ve wondered whether the Lakers will ever dominate again like they once did. Their large market, warm weather and proximity to Hollywood give them some inherent advantages that won’t go away anytime soon. But are they predestined to always exploit those factors? Were other elements, like Jerry Buss’ presence and that of other specific owners before him, essential to the Lakers’ winning recipe?
The Lakers have fallen on hard times before, and I’m sure similar uncertainty existed in those moments, too. But they’ve always returned to the top quickly, clearing the doubts.
Maybe hindsight will make this dry spell also seem small, but until that happens, the doubts will remain.
And even if the Lakers get back on top, they’ll have at least a slightly different style without Jerry Buss. It’s impossible for the Lakers to ever become Jerry Buss’ Lakers again, so in that sense, Cuban is correct.
But if they’re winning big again, they’ll still be the Lakers. Will that happen, though?