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Monday, February 18, 2013
Dr. Gerald Hatten "Jerry" Buss - A Legacy Unmatched
If you were to walk inside STAPLES Center today, you will see a legacy left behind by just one man - Dr. Gerald Hatten "Jerry" Buss - who forever changed the face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. All you have to do is look up at the rafters to see the decorated successes Dr. Buss has openly shared with the fans - Nine retired jerseys, and countless other championship mementos. Pre-Showtime Era and Shaq/Kobe Dynasty Blue prints will show the blood, sweat and tears from founding owners Sid Hartman, Ben Berger, and Morris Chalfen (1947-57). The trio purchased the Detroit Gems for a modest $15,000. They then relocated the Gems to Minneapolis, Minnesota. With that move came the biggest gem of them all - a new team brand. Inspired by the States moniker, "Land of 10,000 Lakes", the Detroit Gems became the Minneapolis "Lakers". Who knows, the Gems might have been the better fit with all of glitz and glam Hollywood has to offer. With the help of Mikan and Mikkelsen, the Minneapolis Lakers were crowned the NBA's first ever champions from the league's inaugural 1949-50 season. That championship season would spark four others from that era. In 1957 Bob Short purchased the Minneapolis Lakers. Short's decision to relocate the Minneapolis Lakers just before the 1960-61 season to Los Angeles, California would be the smartest franchise move yet - outside of future draft picks of course. Five years later Short would sell the Los Angeles Lakers to new owner Jack Kent Cooke for $5 million. Far from the franchise outset purchase of $15,000. West, Chamberlain, Goodrich and Co. then gave the Los Angeles Lakers franchise their sixth championship banner from that NBA record-setting 33-game winning streak season in 1971-72. The Showtime Era (1979-89) - Crafted by team owner Dr. Jerry Buss in 1979 Jack Kent Cooke sold the team to real estate mogul Dr. Jerry Buss. His real estate developing skills came into play as he purchased the team at just the right time. His newly purchased team was already loaded with enormous talent. Kareem, Jamaal, Nixon, and Coop were all ready to win championships - there was just one missing piece.
Buss would find himself in the midst of making franchise history by helping select Earvin "Magic" Johnson in the 1979 draft. In the 80's and what would become the Showtime Era, his team would give him five NBA titles from that decade - led by none other than the Magic man himself. The hiring of Pat Riley as head coach from assistant coach duties; Signing of Kurt Rambis who would pioneer the path for future Laker bad boys; Selecting James Worthy from the 1982 first round pick and A.C. Green from the 1985 draft; and the signing of Byron Scott - Were all crafted by the genius of Dr. Jerry Buss. Post-Showtime was the 90's where Buss hit a dry spell. This would later be categorized as the Van Exel era. A lot of roster changes with no results led to a decade that would spotlight a new player - Michael Jordan. In 1996, Buss hits the jackpot by signing a young high school kid by the name of Kobe Bryant and another prospect by the name of Derek Fisher fresh from the University of Arkansas. Both packed with talent, but one more experienced. But there was one more big (huge) move looming that would raise eye brows. Free agent Shaquille O'Neal joined the Los Angeles Lakers on a seven-year, $121 million contract. Needless to say, the 1996-97 season showed serious promise. Buss wasn't done there, mid-through the season, he signs Robert Horry whose name would forever be etched in stone with just one shot. After several seasons with playoff exits, a new millennium full of Zen arrives. Buss hires Phil Jackson as head coach entering the 1999-2000 season. While the Lakers would gain five more championship titles through this new dynasty the Laker family would lose several legends along the way. Wilt Chamberlain would die from a heart attack in 1999. Chick Hearn, the voice of the Lakers passed away from injuries caused by a fall in 2002. George Mikan died in 2005, of complications from diabetes and other ailments, and five-time NBA champion Slater Martin passed away in 2012. Today, Laker land mourns the loss of team owner Dr. Jerry Buss from an undisclosed form of cancer. This is a devastating blow to the heart and soul of the organization. With a season of disappointment and doubt that the Lakers will make the playoffs, losing the engine that drove this franchise to where its at now could destroy the team. Dr. Jerry Buss, after hearing stories from past and present players, was no micromanager. His presence was felt when needed and walked away when not - leaving behind 100% trust in his staff. There's talks that Jeanie Buss will take over. This might be PJ's entrance to a dying franchise. Dr. Jerry Buss will be missed. He truly left a legacy unmatched.