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Jerry Buss, L.A. Lakers Owner, Dead At 80

Jerry Buss
Michael Buckner, Getty Images

Jerry Buss, the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, died Monday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 80.

A child of the Great Depression, Buss defined the bootstrap mentality of his generation. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Wyoming, achieving his doctorate in physical chemistry at USC in 1957.

After transforming himself into a real estate tycoon through savvy deals in the 1960s and ’70s, Buss made a deal to buy the Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings NHL franchise, the Inglewood Forum in which the teams played, and a California ranch from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million in 1979. Forbes recently valued the Lakers alone at $1 billion.

Los Angeles won 10 championships under Buss, who coined the term ‘showtime’ to describe the Lakers and the atmosphere they played in during the 1980s. Celebrities often lined the courtside seats as Hall of Fame caliber players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant helped the team achieve decades of excellence.

Buss is survived by daughters Jeanie and Janie, sons Jim, Johnny, Joey and Jesse, and eight grandchildren.

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