Around the age of 5 or 6 I picked up a basketball for the first time during recess. I wasn’t yet big enough to get the ball to the rim. Girls were still carrying cooties back then so given the choice between playing hide and seek with them or chucking a basketball 8 feet into the air at the rim, I went with the latter. Sometime later, I’m at my father’s house for the weekend. He turns on the TV to a Lakers’ game. “Dad they play basketball on TV?” “Yes, son, they do.” “That team has a player named Magic?” “Yes, son.” “Is that really his name?” “Yes, it is.” I was hooked. Basketball became my favorite sport and the Lakers were my favorite team.
Fast forward to now, a few weeks shy of my 34th birthday. I’m a self-proclaimed hoops junkie. Between November and June, most of my
free time is devoted to the Lakers and the NBA. The same year that I was born was also the year that Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings and the Forum. In the decades that have followed the Lakers have been the most successful team in all of sports. They’ve won 10 titles and, on average, make the NBA Finals every other year. Star players have come and gone during that time span. As have coaches, ball boys, scouts, you name it. They’ve all lived the dream, so to speak, of being associated with the most glamorous franchise team in the NBA. The one constant presence during all those years of success has been Dr. Buss.
This morning, Dr Buss passed away at the age of 80. A man so respected that news media outlets opted not to report his cancer until the final days because that’s what he wanted. I’m not much for sentiment, especially over the passing of a stranger. I usually wonder how much of an impact someone can have on your life if you’ve never met them. Yet I sit here wondering if I’d be as addicted to basketball as I am I’d not become a Lakers fan or been born in LA. Would I like the Lakers as much if Dr. Buss hadn’t bought the team? Would I devote as much time to the Lakers and the NBA had he stuck to real estate? The answer to all of those questions is probably not. He might be the biggest reason for my love of basketball, but he’s certainly up there. As a lifelong Lakers’ fan I’ve been spoiled, fortunate and lucky. The city of Los Angeles (and the NBA) has been spoiled, lucky and fortunate.
Thank you, Dr. Buss, for spoiling all of us.