Title says it all. :(
A sad, though not unexpected, day for all professional basketball fans. I lived in L.A. for the first seven years of my life, just as the Showtime era began, and I learned to love the Lakers somewhere between mastering potty training and my ABC’s. In short, I was aware that the NBA was a thing for almost the entire 33-year run that Dr. Jerry Buss was the Laker’s owner. In that time, my favorite pro team has been to the Finals sixteen times and won ten titles. Suffice it to say that I’ve been spoiled as an NBA fan. That this season has so spectacularly gone to shit does not diminish the Laker’s run of success, but rather testifies to a culture of winning and expecting championships that Dr. Buss made into a hallmark of being a Laker. Many people have said (not without reason) that the Lakers are basketball’s version of the Yankees; in my infinite arrogance, I would submit that it’s the Yankees are baseball’s version of the Lakers.
As such, I’m not exactly impartial, but it is my considered opinion that Dr. Buss was the best professional sports owner in all four major leagues. Much like fellow Laker legend Chick Hearn whose vocal mannerisms are now standard basketball parlance, Dr. Buss’ contributions reach far and wide beyond. He certainly had no small amount of help from Magic and Kareem and Kobe, but Dr. Buss did was much as anyone else to make the NBA relevant - to make games an *event*. How many people remember that Magic’s legendary close-out game in the 1980 finals was shown on tape delay? That’d be inconceivable today. I suspect many people here are Pistons or Bulls fans – I’m sure you have fond memories of the great teams they had during the 90’s. But besides all the winning, don't you also remember ancillary moments like The Final Countdown blaring through The Palace during the 4th quarter? John Mason saying ‘Joe Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuumars!’ after another clutch bucket by #4? Dimming the lights and introducing the Bulls starters to Allan Parson’s ‘Sirius’? All of that started with Jerry Buss. Most of all, Jerry Buss knew how *not* to be Jerry Jones.
To bring this topic within a country mile of MGoBlog’s purview, it’s easy and probably apt to compare Jerry Buss to Bo. They were both, for lack of a better word, icons. In their passing they left footprints so large and so deep that they’re impossible to fill. Michigan will always have Bo Schembechler’s indelible legacy to live up to and it’s no less the same for the Lakers in the post-Jerry Buss era. Without going to the ugly details it’s no secret that the Lakers have an even bigger leadership void to fill. As a Michigan and a Laker fan, it’s hard not for me to both appreciate the legacy that Bo and Dr. Buss have respectively left and to also feel trepidation about how things will go moving forward for L.A. given what we had to go through in the wake of Bo’s passing.