By STEVEN HERBERT
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who helped
transform the franchise into the most successful and glamorous team in North
American professional sports, died Monday, the team and Cedars-Sinai Medical
Center confirmed. He was 80.
Buss died at 5:55 a.m., according to Cedars-Sinai spokeswoman Sally Stewart.
Buss had spent time in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical
Center with an undisclosed form of cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In December 2011, he was hospitalized for treatment of blood clots in his legs that officials said were caused by extensive traveling.
"We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our
community and a person respected by the world basketball community,'' statement released on behalf of the Buss family said.
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 Lakers are expected to remain under Buss family control.
Buss's son Jim is the team's executive vice president of player personnel, and his daughter, Jeanie, is executive vice president of business operations.
Another son, Johnny, is executive vice president of strategic development; and daughter Janie Drexel is director of charitable services. Buss's son Jesse is director of scouting.
In addition to his five children involved with the Lakers, son Joey is chief executive officer of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' NBA Development League affiliate.
In 1979, Buss purchased the Lakers, Forum, Los Angeles Kings hockey team
and a 13,000-acre Kern County ranch from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million,
then the largest transaction in sports history.
When Buss purchased the team, it had won one championship in the previous 25 seasons and had lost nine times in the NBA finals during that span,
including four seven-game series.
Buss combined show business glamour and sex appeal with shrewd personnel
moves -- both on and off the court -- to make the Lakers become what NBA
Commissioner David Stern once said was ``the standard by which all L.A. sports franchises and most American franchises get measured.''
Under Buss, the Lakers became the first basketball team to have a dance squad: the Laker Girls, who also developed a devoted following and inspired
creation of similar squads by every other team in the league.
The Lakers won three more NBA championships from 2000-2002 with teams
led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Bryant-led teams won titles in 2009
The Lakers' 10 championships under Buss' ownership are the most by a
team in any of the four major North American professional leagues since he
purchased the team. Buss' 10 championships as an owner are the most in NBA
Buss was selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. During the induction ceremony at the Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., Buss said he was "probably happier than anyone'' ... "because most of the people that come up here have an inkling of the idea someday they may make the Hall of Fame.
"Believe me, when I was 21, I never thought I'd be enshrined,'' Buss
said during the ceremony.
Born Jan. 27, 1933, in a sheep ranching community of Kemmerer, Wyo., Buss came to Southern California to attend graduate school at USC, where he received a doctorate in physical chemistry.
Buss taught at USC and worked in the aerospace industry, then joined with aerospace engineer Frank Mariani in forming Mariani-Buss Associates, a real estate firm, whose initial goal was to provide Buss with income to pursue his love of teaching.
Instead, Buss parlayed an original $1,000 investment in a West Los Angeles apartment building into a fortune that would enable him to enter professional sports ownership.
Buss made his initial foray into professional sports in 1974 when he purchased full control of the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis.
In 2006, Buss received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honored in the television category for co-founding -- with the late cable pioneer Bill Daniels -- the Prime Ticket regional cable sports channel in 1985, which showed the Lakers' home games, along with other events from the Forum, college sports and other events.
Despite others' fears that televising home games would hurt attendance, Prime Ticket generated millions of dollars annually through the sale of television rights fees and ended up bolstering the Lakers' attendance by creating greater interest in the team.
Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending, according to a statement by the Lakers. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations
be made to the Lakers Youth Foundation or a charity of the donor's choice.