Whether it was running the Lakers organization or sitting at the poker table, the late Jerry Buss had a fondness for gambling.
Such risk taking played a large part in the Lakers securing 10 of their 16 NBA championships once Buss purchased the team in 1979. As indicated in a World Series of Poker tribute, such risk taking allowed Buss to excel with a deck of cards and stack of chips.
“I don’t know if poker prepared me for the Lakers or the Lakers prepared me for poker,” Buss said in the video. “It maybe a little bit at the same time.”
Still, Buss family spokesman Bob Steiner made a clear distinction on how Buss approached his risk taking.
“Jerry Buss is a gambler in his love of poker, but he was a not a gambler in business,” Steiner said. “He made calculated risks and did his examinations early on.”
Since Buss’ passing this week from an unspecified form of cancer, various team accounts have described the former Lakers owner holding those qualities in different ways. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak marveled at how Buss peppered him with unexpected questions on various issues. Kobe Bryant gushed on how familiar Buss remained about all the league personnel, their salaries and how they could fit into the Lakers’ picture. Various famed Lakers, including Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bryant and Kupchak, complimented Buss for having these qualities while still allowing his colleagues to do their job.
But when Buss needed a break from it all, he knew where to devote his energy.
“When I play poker, everything goes away,” Buss said in the video. “I concentrate on the game. I really enjoy it. It’s really the only type of relaxation I can totally get basketball off my mind with sore toes, sore knees and big contracts.”
Still, as the video showed above, Buss still played at the poker table with the same attention to detail and willingness to take risks that defined his success with the Lakers.
“Large stakes poker does not frighten me,” Buss said in the video. “I’m not intimidated with $25,000 raises. Even if I lose, I can still afford it. I tend to play the very best there is. There’s no thrill to me to beat just average players. I like to go up against the best. The reason they’re the very best is they tend to win so I tend to lose. There’s times I can hold my own.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org