Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  February 20, 2013

He was a child of the depression, an old school business player and he struck it rich the way the old players did, swinging hard and swinging all night. Jerry Buss earned his doctorate in physical chemistry and made a fortune in real estate which he turned into a bigger fortune in sports. He wasn’t as diversified as some of today’s owners but he lived a lot larger and won larger too – ten NBA titles and that won’t happen again. He liked to be called Dr. Buss, hung out at the Playboy mansion and drove a purple Rolls. He talked softly, had an easy smile and wasn’t shy about dropping the hammer when he had to. And now he’s gone.

The passing of a giant overshadowed most of the other current basketball news, especially for Lakers fans. It reminded us of the frailty of life but in truth we’re reminded every day and sports is no exception – there’s a reason you see so many gimpy jocks and a reason their shelf lives are so short. It’s a tradeoff – they blow out their joints and stress their organs and leave it all on the floor, and some go even harder when they truly believe, when there’s a goal in sight, a unified mission, a team structure, a culture of winning. Or in the case of Dwight Howard, a culture of fun.

Tonight the Lakers face another team with injuries and old stories, the Boston Celtics. There’s a sizable gap between their respective records this season – Boston has faced adversity with their customary zeal and bunker mentality and will play after losing in Denver last night. The Lakers meanwhile have been heading down a wrongheaded path since Phil Jackson limped off into the not-quite-sunset. Is it Jim Buss’s fault? Not entirely. There were some lean years during Jerry Buss’s prime so let’s not forget that. Still, being a Laker under the good doctor’s stewardship held an undeniable panache.

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo, on Kobe Bryant and being a Laker for life.

Lee Jenkins from SI puts the empire Jerry Buss built into a mom-and-pop store perspective.

Jack McCallum from SI sits down to breakfast with Phil Jackson.

Dave McMenamin at ESPN reports that Pau Gasol is on track for his return. Dave also writes about Dr. Buss and there’s some great Magic audio embedded in the piece.

Jeff Miller at the OC Register looks at how an uncertain season just became more so.

Kevin Ding & Janis Carr at the OC Register relay Mitch Kupchak’s assertion that there won’t be a major deal before the deadline.

Regardless of assurances, the deadline’s nearly here. Drew Garrison with Silver Screen and Roll looks at some of the possible Dwight Howard scenarios.

The Kamenetzky Bros are reviving their Land O’Lakers shingle, welcome news indeed. Also follow their posts on Sulia, such as this one by BK about Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss.

Emile Avanessian at Hardwood Hype on Pai-Gow poker. Read this post.

Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie presents yesterday’s viral photo of the day, plus Andrew Bynum’s belief that he’ll play for the 76ers this season.

***

The All-Star game was this past Sunday. There was just six minutes left when Kobe Bryant asked to take LeBron James one-on-one. He proceeded to do just that – holding James to a single point with two blocks, a steal and some serious physicality. This came 16 years after Bryant won the All-Star slam dunk contest. After the game, twitter blew up as stat-heads tried reducing a legend to a glimmer of entitled arrogance. Some of those complaining the loudest weren’t actually old enough to remember the 1997 dunk contest.

Jerry Buss loved sports and he loved his rum and coke, the quintessential cocktail for the eternal teen. The man was no saint but he ran a first-class operation and took care of his family and a lot of other families as well. There’s been so many stories told about Magic and Kobe and other Laker greats. I sometimes think about the players he helped who weren’t Laker stars and perhaps were no longer stars at all.

It was August of 2011. Phil Jackson stood on stage at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and waited patiently for Dennis Rodman to make his way down the aisle. Rodman was in an emotional frame of mind and he talked about the father figures in his life. He thanked Jeanie Buss for letting him share her dad. Rodman didn’t last but 23 games with the Lakers during the 1998-99 season and when it was time to cut him loose, Jerry Buss understood. He didn’t let friendship interfere with team business and he didn’t let team business take away from friendship. And for those who were simply fans of the game, he brought quality basketball and more than a few parades. The team didn’t deliver the last couple of years but he kept rolling the dice anyway and for that and so much more, we thank him. Up next, the future.

Dave Murphy

Posts