LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Dr. Jerry Buss, whose ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers transformed the team into one of the most prestigious franchises in professional sports, died on Monday. He was 80 years old.
Buss had been hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “an undisclosed form of cancer,” CBS2 News had previously confirmed, but the Associated Press reported the immediate cause of death was kidney failure.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” a statement released on behalf of the Buss family said. “It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”
Under Buss, the Lakers evolved into one of the most prestigious franchises in professional sports. The team won 10 NBA Championships under his ownership, making Buss the winningest coach in professional sports, and the Lakers were recently valued at $900 million by Forbes.
»PHOTO GALLERY: Jerry Buss 1933-2013
He purchased the team and its former home, the Great Western Forum, from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979. He also acquired the Los Angeles Kings – which he later sold – and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County as part of the $67 million deal.
The Lakers won an NBA championship in Buss’ first season as owner. Buss’ early years of ownership added four more titles in the following eight seasons.
Buss purchased the Lakers right after the team drafted Hall of Famer and Lakers legendary point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who called Buss “a great man and an incredible friend.”
Despite an often rocky relationship with guard Kobe Bryant that ultimately ended with his being traded to the Miami Heat, former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal remained a longtime supporter of Buss.
CBS2 Sports Director Jim Hill told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that Buss was greatly admired by his colleagues after decades of winning championships.