Jerry Buss, the self-made millionaire who owned a generous stake in the L.A. Lakers, has died of complications from cancer. He was 80 years old.
Buss struggled with health problems in recent years and hadn’t made many public appearances after having surgery to repair blood clot damage in his legs in 2011.
After being born into near-poverty in the ’30s, Buss eventually found his way to college, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry. From there, he moved on to real estate, and bought up several properties over the years which included residential and business buildings. Keeping the overhead low was key to his success, and he and his partner Frank Mariani did many of the repairs and upkeep themselves.
An opportunity came in 1979 when Buss and his partners had the chance to seize a floundering basketball team. The NBA had begun to fall off by that time after seeing some success in the ’60s and early ’70s, but when Buss looked at the Lakers, he saw a diamond in the rough. Sure enough, the team shot to the forefront of the game and enjoyed success which made big names of its stars, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant.
Of the team, Buss said, “I really tried to create a Laker image, a distinct identity. I mean, the Lakers are pretty damn Hollywood.”
Kobe Bryant had just spoken fondly of Buss in an interview on Friday, saying, “He means everything to me. He took a chance on a 17-year-old kid coming out of Philadelphia when nobody really saw that potential. He believed in me the entire way.”