Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers that ushered the team to dynastic status with 10 NBA titles from the 1980s until the 2000s, died on Monday. He was 80 years old.
For much of the past year, Buss had been ill, citing an intestinal problem that caused him to miss all of the Lakers’ games this season. On Feb. 14, he revealed that had cancer, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure.
With Buss’ guidance, the Lakers became the golden child of the LA sports scene and an icon of the glamorous Southern California dream. Because of him, Lakers fans had the privilege of experiencing NBA greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq on their home team.
But aside from being a cornerstone in elevating the Lakers to worldwide renown, Buss has significant ties at the collegiate level, to his alma mater, USC.
Buss moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s and attended USC, where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry by age 24. He briefly worked in the aerospace industry, and was apart USC’s faculty in the chemistry department.
From there, he ascended to greatness as one of the most iconic, brilliant owners in the sports industry, but he never forgot about his alma mater. He could often be seen visiting USC basketball games, both at the LA Sports Arena and at the new home to Trojan hoops, the Galen Center. In 2008, he also donated $7.5 million to USC’s department of chemistry to fund two endowed chairs and a scholarship fund for graduate students. Buss was an inaugural member of the USC College board of counselors, now known as the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.
When he wasn’t giving back to the Trojans or running sports teams, Buss was an avid poker player. He was a high-stakes cash game player for years, but later in life got involved with tournament play. He finished third in the 1991 World Series of Poker seven-card stud event and second place in the 2003 World Poker Tour Freeroll invitational, his two best finishes. He has appeared in the GSN series “High Stakes Poker” as well as the NBC series “Poker After Dark.”
For the past few years two of Buss’s children, Jim and Jeanie, have been largely running the Lakers, but the name “Jerry Buss” will always be synonymous with the Lakers franchise, and furthermore, the pinnacle of winning and success.
Many former players have reached out to the Buss family since his cancer was revealed, and even more have poured out support in his passing.
He will be missed sorely by all three of his families: his personal one, as well as those of the Lakers and the Trojans.
R.I.P, Jerry Buss. Fight On Forever.