Jerry Buss, Hall of Famer

Darius Soriano —  April 6, 2010

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It has been reported that Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss has been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Over the years, Dr. Buss has been the steward of this organization and been a major influence on all its success.  He’s done things his way and repeatedly come out on top.  The man is truly one of a kind

He is Jerry Hatten Buss, 46, an amiable and intelligent Los Angeles multimillionaire who extravagantly admires, among other things, M & M candy, French existentialists, any and all USC football teams, any and all Playboy centerfold girls, rare coins, rare stamps, rare cars and rare bargains in real estate.

His persona is an amalgam of Horatio Alger and Hugh Hefner; of sugar daddy, devoted father, accountant, real estate wheeler-dealer and aerospace scientist. Buss comes on in a manner that mixes cowboy swagger with movie star glamour, college professor smarts with pool hustler chic.

(Buss) went to Laramie, where he worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift as a chemist at the Bureau of Mines and attended the University of Wyoming during the day. He graduated with a degree in chemistry in 2(?) years when he was only 19. So impressive were his grades that he was offered scholarships at Harvard, Michigan, Cal Tech and USC, among other schools. Buss picked USC “because of football and the weather,” and got his master’s and his Ph.D….

Always the sports fan, Buss had his eyes on the Lakers and would later acquire them from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 who he had met after renting out the Forum some three years earlier.  Showing his business savvy, Buss would immediately make two moves that would set the Lakers franchise on a path for long term success (from the same SI piece)

Within days after his purchase of the club was announced, Buss may have solved a potentially nasty situation by arranging to keep former Laker Coach Bill Sharman as general manager and at the same time offering Jerry West a front-office job of equal rank that will enable him to gracefully give up his coaching duties, which he has grown to abhor. Buss was kept constantly informed by Cooke of the negotiations that resulted in the signing of Earvin (Magic) Johnson.

 But over the years it’s been obvious that it’s not just his business savvy, but his risk taking and instincts that have gotten him to where he is today.  When the opportunity to take a chance and gamble on the ultimate prize presents itself, it’s Buss that rises to the challenge.

Jerry Buss , owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, has forced all other teams out of the bidding for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , according to Tom Collins , the representative of the free- agent center.

Collins said of Buss, ”He has done a very good job in this poker game of making the other teams drop out. He and Kareem are now the only two players.” Buss said he would offer ”a flat $1.4 million” a season to Abdul-Jabbar, who is reportedly asking about $400,000 more.

And it wasn’t just with the acquistion of Kareem, but also how the Lakers came to draft Magic Johnson that Buss played a winning hand (from My Life, Earvin “Magic” Johnson):

Before Buss bought the team, Cooke told him the Lakers’ management had recommended drafting Sidney Moncrief… “No way”, said Buss. “Magic Johnson’s the guy or the deal’s off.”

Magic and Kareem.  Showtime.  The glory days.  Five championships and 8 Finals appearances with those two on the roster.  Based off all that success, it’s no wonder that Buss has been so loyal to Magic over the years.  Few remember that Buss actually extended Magic’s contract after he had retired from the NBA in 1992.

Magic Johnson continued an eventful week yesterday by signing a $14.6 million one-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rosen added that Johnson would receive the money even if he were no longer playing. “The contract is fully guaranteed,” Rosen said. “There is no stipulation that Earvin has to still be playing, and there is no stipulation that Earvin must be employed by the Lakers.

“Dr. Buss is a man of his word,” he said, referring to Lakers owner Jerry Buss. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. This is something Dr. Buss wanted to do long before Earvin announced his retirement. We looked at all the years when Earvin was not the league’s highest-paid player, and this is the number we negotiated. On the day he retired, Dr. Buss still said that he would do this. He’s an owner who has gone above and beyond.”

But the success didn’t stop in the 80’s or with the retirement of Magic.  The Lakers have gone on win four more championships and make 6 more trips to the Finals under the stewardship of Buss.  When it’s all added up that’s 9 NBA Championships and 15 Finals appearances for the Lakers since Jerry Buss acquired the team in 1979.  And with the extension of Kobe, Gasol and Bynum, the re-signing of Odom, and the acquistion of Artest the Lakers look to be in contention for more deep playoff runs and championships. 

I doubt that Dr. Buss was thinking Hall of Fame or bust when he purchased the Lakers back over 30 years ago.  But, it looks like he’s gotten there anyway.  Congratulations are in order for one of the most successful owners in all of professional sports and a man that is truly one of a kind.  Jerry Buss, Hall of Famer.

(A special thanks goes out to Gatinho for compiling all the articles and quotes used for this piece.  As our resident Lakers historian, this post wouldn’t have been possible without his help.)

Darius Soriano

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23 responses to Jerry Buss, Hall of Famer

  1. Darius and Gatinho, fantastic job!

    One of the many reasons I read this site is not only for the astute analysis of the game but also the historical perspective that can be found here.

    Thank you.


  2. Off topic but there’s a live chat with Farmar going on right now


  3. I’m reminded of how the Lakers handled Ronnie Turiaf when he was drafted out of Gonzaga. I believe he had a heart condition that jeopardized his future. Instead of leaving this kid high and dry, the Lakers provided their resources and I believe Buss even fit the bill for a lot of what Ronnie needed to ensure his health on the court. I love the Lakers because even though it’s about basketball and winning games, the organization employs approaches that are about more than just the game.


  4. Nothing against Jerry Buss, but I think it’s a little weird to consider owners for the Hall of Fame. (Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of whole “Hall of Fame” concept in general.)


  5. Lotta ladies hitting on Jordan Farmar in that live chat.. hahaha


  6. If any owner deserves Hall of Fame inclusion, it is Jerry Buss. The man’s committment to excellence in putting out a quality product with longevity is pretty much unsurpassed.


  7. 4) – From the ownership perspective Dr. Buss changed the NBA. Many things that are standard experiences at today’s NBA games can be traced to back to Dr. Buss. Cheerleaders, music during games, and the idea of the basketball experience as “entertainment” were all pioneered by Dr. Buss. Buss was the first owner to make going to a basketball game similar to having a night out on the town.

    Combine that with the man’s commitment to competing and winning, and he is one owner who MUST be in the Hall. He truly changed this game.


  8. I don’t think owners should be in the hall of fame. Players and Coaches: Yes. Broadcasters: Yes. Office personnel and owners: No. Athletic trainers, PA announcers, ball boys, cheerleaders and other peripheral personnel: hell no.

    I don’t have any witty comment or rationale behind it, it just seems to me that when I think basketball, I think players, coaches and broadcasters, not office personnel, owners and other supporting cast.


  9. the other stephen April 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    hey there, jerry stiller.


  10. That shirt is not HOF material, that’s for sure


  11. celts lost to Knicks tonight.

    fwiw, we’re not the only one…


  12. Alex,
    That is a great question… should owners be allowed in the HOF? Darius… can we get a post on that maybe after the season ends? Im going to go with yes… but rarely. It shouldn’t be for winning, but more for adding to the NBA business and promoting its growth. Buss certainly did that by making the game more marketable and exciting to attend (hellooo Laker Girls). For the most part I would say no… but guys like Jerry Buss and Mark Cuban that advance the game deserve to be in the HOF… even more than some players.


  13. I guess I’ll put this here because it’s the most recet post…

    As much as it pains me to say this, because I hate the word in general…do we have a similar mentality as the Celtics right now? I mean, we haven’t lost to the Nets, but the lack of mindset is eerily similar. Go out and beat The Lebrons on Sunday, lose to NY tonight. Had a big (huge!) lead they couldn’t hold, no killer instinct? The ESPN recap said something about them having mailed it in already and just waiting for the playoffs when they’ll turn it on. We don’t have a switch, I know, but…


  14. Taylor, my observations would say that we are more the type to beat the NY’s and then lose to the Lebrons than vice versa. Also, we are one of the best third quarter teams in the league (maybe not recently but season long) which shows a little killer instinct. Not to mention we have Mr. Killerinstinct on our team; I think he wears #24. We are in a slump at one of the worst times to be in one. If (when) this team digs its way out of it, we will return to being one of the most feared teams in the league. Until then, we are still the guys that teams say “they’re not so tough ____ beat them last night!” for a pregame rally. Every team has its problems, its all about how well you can keep them from being exploited. The problem right now is that we have a couple weaknesses too many to cover them all up at once.


  15. Yeah… the Lakers have done a great job of beating the bad teams. Unfortunately they have done a bad job of beating the very good teams. And I say unfortunately because that is a pretty good indicator of playoff success.

    On an off the wall side note I have a Phil Jackson like zany idea as to why Artest shot has been off the last month. His weight loss has helped his defense and ability to finish around the rim… but I think it has thrown his shot out of whack a little while he is in the process of re calibrating it. His shedding of that extra muscle and little bit of fat might have resulted in some strength loss (he can afford to lose a little).


  16. 15. I agree with you, but as bad as the lakers seem, they haven’t been that bad against the good teams.

    I have a feeling the lakers will beat denver on thurs. So if they do beat denver they will be 2-2 in that series

    1-1 in each series versus Atlanta, Orlando, and Boston
    2-2 against Dallas and San Antonio
    3-1 against the Suns and Jazz
    2-1 against Portland and OKC.
    The only ugly one is the 0-2 versus Cleveland.

    The goal for most teams is to beat the teams they should beat (only two losses against teams under .500) and go .500 versus the good teams. Well that’s just what the lakers did. But what makes the lakers seem worse then what they actually are against the playoff teams is that they’ve been blown out by all those teams I just mentioned except Boston and Orlando.


  17. congratulations to jerry buss. i think that owners must be included in the hall of fame as their work (and spending) is as vital to the success of the franchise as the players and coaches. the way they handle the businnes- as well as the personal part of their franchise builds an identity for the whole team. while other owners trade talent and picks for cap relief, the best owners would never even consider such a move. it obviously helps playing in a great market and having a great fan-base, but thats what a great owner is supposed to develop > a fan-base and market for his team, and i truly think we were lucky enough to have the best owner to do that.


  18. btw: anyone seen okc vs utah?!? last 5 minutes… durant was just sick


  19. #15. Aaron,
    There is usually a fair amount of time in the off season to explore a bunch of topics. Maybe we can figure out a good angle to talk about the HOF.


  20. Not everyone who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame (Tex Winter, cough cough) gets in. Although Buss deserves it, I think it’s crappy that one of the most deserving men in the game’s history has not gotten in.

    I would also argue that Gary Vitti deserves HOF inclusion!!! The man is a mythical character when it comes to mitigating inury for the cause of success.


  21. I’ve harped on this before, but it’s ridiculous that Jamaal Wilkes isn’t in the HOF yet.

    2-time NCAA champ (on a couple of 30-0 teams), 4-time NBA champ (with 2 different teams including Golden State’s only title team in ’75), Rookie of the Year, All-Star…how was, say, Joe Dumars’ career any better than that?

    Would sure like to see Jamaal’s #52 up in the rafters.


  22. I don’t think Vitti belongs in the HOF. Granted, he has been one of the most consistent Lakers over the years, but his influence doesn’t extend far from the huddle. If the Lakers had some sort of Ring of Honor (aside from the numbers and microphone hanging in the rafters) then I would say that he does belong there. I’m certain that people in most NBA towns don’t know about G. Vitti