“By now I was beginning to feel like I was walking on a golden path” said Jerry Buss in 2010, describing one of the most enviable basketball lives during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech. The former geologist turned real estate mogul and Lakers scion died at 5:55 a.m. this morning at age 80 in Los Angeles from cancer. His line about the golden road explains much about his tenure as Lakers boss.
I have no connection to the Buss family, Los Angeles as a whole, or what it’s like to live like a billionaire. Buss, however, wasn’t your typical owner, which is why I’m remembering him here. Buss lived with feet in two separate worlds: one with the jet-setting elite and one with the common fan. It does not take wealth into 10 figures to relate to his rabid fandom of his team (he once owned the NHL’s Kings, as well), and the way he lived — hobnobbing with the powerful and, quite often, the beautiful — was less the mark of an elitist than the way a teenaged boy would dream his life given all the resources in the world. Few could relate, yet everyone could relate.
His speech at the Hall of Fame opens a door to that life ever since he bought the Lakers, Kings and The Forum in 1979 for $67 million. In this past year where bum owners such as the Maloofs in Sacramento are in more headlines than their team, it’s impossible to dismiss Buss’ love for his team as anything but refreshing. And his fortune provided many reasons to smile, with 10 titles.
What do you remember him by?
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