Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Passes Away Following Battle with Cancer

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

Legendary Los Angeles Lakers owner and real estate magnate Jerry Buss passed away on Monday, Feb. 18 due to complications from cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan. He was 80.

Los Angeles Times' David Wharton confirmed Bresnahan's report: "Buss died Monday of an undisclosed form of cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, according to his longtime spokesman, Bob Steiner."

The Lakers organization later confirmed Buss' passing on Twitter and also released a statement on the team's official website:

"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.

Dr. Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months in a battle which "showed his amazing strength and will to live. 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,” the statement concluded.

He is survived by sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel, all of Southern California; eight grandchildren; former wife JoAnn of Las Vegas; half sister Susan Hall of Phoenix; half brother Micky Brown of Scottsdale; and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyoming.

Funeral and memorial service arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Lakers Youth Foundation or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Though Buss' cancer diagnosis was kept private, word had leaked of his declining health in recent days. reported on Feb. 14 that Buss' family and friends had been summoned to his bedside and the prognosis was not good. 

Buss, whose legend began in the real estate community, was a pioneer on the Los Angeles sports scene for parts of five decades. After acquiring his wealth as a co-owner of Mariani-Buss Associates, Buss slowly started expanding his empire with the purchase of sports franchises. 

He started as an owner of the Los Angeles Strings in World Team Tennis. When that league went defunct in 1978, Buss' focus shifted toward making a much bigger splash in the Los Angeles community.

In 1979, he purchased the Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Los Angeles Forum and a ranch from previous owner Jack Kent Cooke. Buss stayed an owner of the Kings before slowly selling them off to Bruce McNall in the late 1980s, but he truly made his mark with the Lakers.

Always one of the NBA's preeminent franchises, the Lakers had gone through a bit of a downslope prior to Buss buying the team. They had not won a championship since the 1971-72 season, a streak that Buss instantly set out to end.

It took him exactly one season to hoist another banner in the Forum. That title during the 1979-80 campaign sparked a run that will go down as one of the greatest among all owners in the four major professional sports leagues.

Buss' Lakers went on to span 10 NBA championships and include the careers of Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and plenty of other all-time great players. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor to the game in 2010, an honor bestowed upon a select few owners. 

His is a legacy that goes beyond just the Lakers and Los Angeles community. Our thoughts are with the Buss family and Lakers organization as they deal with this unfortunate tragedy.