LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A memorial service for Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss was held Thursday afternoon at the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live.
The 3 p.m. service was for invited guests only, but was carried live on CBS2 News, KCAL9 News and CBSLA.com. CBS2 Sports Director Jim Hill also served as emcee of the ceremony.
Buss, who is known as one of the most successful owners in all of sports, died Monday of kidney failure after battling cancer for 18 months. He was 80 years old.
Past and present Laker greats – including Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – spoke at the service. Former Lakers coaches Phil Jackson and Pat Riley also addressed the crowd.
Jackson talked about the time Bryant insisted on being traded.
He said Buss told the frustrated point guard, “If I had a diamond of great value, four or five carats, would I give up that diamond for four diamonds of one carat? No. There is no equal value that we can get for you. A trade would not match what you bring to this team.”
Bryant said, “Dr. Jerry Buss told me, ‘I want you to be a Laker for life.’ He had this ability to convince you to follow him and that’s what he did to me on that day.”
AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke, who also is a part owner of the Lakers, referred to Buss as a “professor” who taught him several business lessons.
“It was amazing,” Leiweke said. “These aren’t just lessons. These are big and bold strokes of a genius that have changed our industry forever.”
He later added: “They bring us together, these Lakers do. They give us a reason to be a community. They give us a reason to cheer. Dr. Buss, that love was and is about you.”
Lakers General Manager Jerry West also said Buss was responsible for changing the entire nature of sports ownership.
“Here was a man who changed not only basketball, he changed all sports,” West said. “He changed them all. He has left a shadow over the entire sports world.”
Buss’ son, Johnny, also addressed the crowd.
“As his children, we will continue to shake off the prejudice of trying to fill his shoes: No one can fill his shoes.”
The memorial had music by Randy Newman and the USC Trojan Marching Band.