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Jerry Buss, Lakers Owner, Dead At 80

Jerry Buss
Patrick McDermott, Getty Images

Jerry Buss, real estate magnate and longtime owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, died Monday of an undisclosed form of cancer, his spokesman Bob Steiner said. Buss, 80, was a patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. His health had declined rapidly in recent weeks.

After building a real estate empire in the 1960s and ’70s, Buss bought the Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings NHL franchise, the Inglewood Forum in which the teams played, and a California ranch from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 for $67.5 million. The Lakers alone were recently valued at $1 billion.

Under Buss, who brought the marketing concept of ‘Showtime’ to the Los Angeles team in the 1980s, the Lakers won 10 championships in 30-plus years. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were among the greats that played for the NBA franchise during Buss’s ownership. Former Lakers player Jerry West, grew to be one of the NBA’s most successful general managers while working for Buss, while Pat Riley and Phil Jackson became known among the NBA’s best head coaches.

A child of the Great Depression, Buss showed an uncanny ability to turn Lakers’ games into something more than an athletic event. Pricey courtside seats consistently were full of celebrity fans like Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon, who watched the best basketball players in the world win game-after-game and the Lakers Girls dance team entertain during breaks.

Buss is survived by daughters Jeanie and Janie and sons Jim and Johnny, all from his marriage to ex-wife JoAnn Mueller; sons Joey and Jesse, from a relationship with Karen Demel; and eight grandchildren.

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