The late Lakers owner Jerry Buss gave a lasting impression to his family that went beyond building championship teams and further cementing a lasting brand.
Buss had been hospitalized with an undisclosed form of cancer, according to a source familiar with the situation, with the same determination and patience that defined his solidified reputation as the Lakers’ owner.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” a statement released on behalf of the Buss family said. “Dr. Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months in a battle which “showed his amazing strength and will to live.”
The Lakers say funeral and memorial services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the Buss family has also requested any donations go to the Lakers Youth Foundation or a charity of their choice.
Buss, 80, has owned the Lakers since 1979, when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67.5 million from Jack Kent Cooke. Since then, the Lakers have become one of the sport’s top franchises, winning 10 of their 16 NBA championships under Buss’ watch.
In recent years, Buss has experienced declining health and has gradually ceded more control of the Lakers. He had surgery Aug. 9 for undisclosed reasons. Buss was hospitalized in July for dehydration. In December 2011, he was hospitalized to treat blood clots in his legs. The Lakers then attributed that to excessive travel.
Buss’ daughter, Jeanie, is the team’s executive vice president of business operations, while Buss’ son, Jim, is the team’s executive vice president of player personnel. The Lakers were recently listed by Forbes Magazine as the second-most-valuable NBA team at $1billion, trailing the New York Knicks.
“It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family,” the Buss family statement read. “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.”
Buss is survived by sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel, all of Southern California; eight grandchildren; former wife JoAnn of Las Vegas; half sister Susan Hall of Phoenix; half brother Micky Brown of Scottsdale; and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyoming.
“The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”