Beyond the glitz, lavish spending and playboy lifestyle, the appeal surrounding the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss involved his down-to-earth persona.
So many players, ranging from Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and even Metta World Peace, have gushed how it was so easy to pick up the phone and call him. Or to meet for a bite to eat.
Ever since arriving here in 2009, the former Ron Artest made such meetings a customary habit at least once every two weeks. Those get togethers often took place at Bristol Farms.
“I just remember one day calling for lunch and he couldn’t come,” World Peace said. “He couldn’t go to lunch and that was it. That was a long time ago and I found out what happened and I went to go visit him in the hospital. So, I told him when he got out (of the hospital) we were going to go back to breakfast, get some more breakfast or get some lunch. But that didn’t happen.”
It sounded bittersweet with as World Peace shared those words. Buss, 80, died from an unspecified form of cancer that affected his kidneys, an illness that kept him in and out of the hospital for the past 18 months.
But World Peace told that story to reinforce how much he developed a bond with Buss immediately upon his arrival. That then led World Peace to compare the other owners he players for with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets.
World Peace said him and Buss would often meet at Bristol Farms for their meals and get together at least once every two weeks.
MWP has played for five different teams — Chicago, Indiana, Sacramento, Houston and LAL — and said he was closest with Buss out of all of those owners.
Chicago: “I never met that owner” in reference to Jerry Reinsdorf.
Indiana: “I met [Herb] Simon, I met the Pacer owner once.”
Sacramento: “The Maloofs, they’re young and very involved, energetic. I love those guys.”
Houston: [Leslie Alexander] is funny. He’s funny. He’s not out front like the Maloofs are, but he’s funny. You can sit and have a really fun conversation with him.”
But clearly, nothing matched World Peace’s relationship with Buss. Hence, why the Lakers played with much better energy in their 113-99 victory Wednesday over the Boston Celtics following an emotional pre-game tribute toward the late owner.
“If we continue to take on his personality,” World Peace said, “we’ll continue to be successful.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org