LOS ANGELES — Jerry Buss had been a chemist and a mathematician long before he bought the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979. The self-made millionaire with a head for business and an impresario's heart immersed himself in the NBA with every skill he acquired along the way.
With his personal alchemy and charisma, he blended two generations of marquee basketball stars and big-name coaches into 10 championship teams. His financial wizardry allowed him to pay top dollar to get the best players and keep them together without a huge personal fortune.
Buss built a glittering life for himself and the Lakers, playing a huge role in the NBA's move from a second-tier pro sport into can't-miss Hollywood entertainment while polishing his oddly nicknamed franchise into a glamorous global brand.
Magic, Kareem and Big Game James. Kobe, Shaq and Pau.
They were the stars, but Buss created Showtime.
The applause still hasn't died down.
Buss, who shepherded the Lakers from their 1980s dynasty through the current Kobe Bryant era while becoming one of the most important and successful owners in pro sports, died Monday at 80.
"Jerry Buss was more than just an owner. He was one of the great innovators that any sport has ever encountered," said Pat Riley, who coached four of Buss' 10 title teams. "He was a true visionary, and it was obvious with the Lakers in the '80s that 'Showtime' was more than just Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was really the vision of a man who saw something that connected with a community."
Under Buss' leadership, the star-studded, trophy-winning Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise and a signature cultural representation of Los Angeles. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and hoops minds during his Hall of Fame tenure, from Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy to Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.