LOS ANGELES — Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers owner who shepherded the NBA franchise to 10 championships from the 1980s Showtime dynasty to the Kobe Bryant era, died toiday, his assistant said.
Buss died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Bob Steiner, his assistant. He was 80.
He’d been hospitalized for cancer, but the immediate cause of death was kidney failure, Steiner said.
Under Buss’ leadership since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California’s most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide extension of Hollywood glamour. Buss acquired, nurtured and befriended a staggering array of talented players and basketball minds during his Hall of Fame tenure.
Few owners in sports history can even approach Buss’ accomplishments with the Lakers, who made the NBA finals 16 times through 2011 during his 32 years in charge, winning 10 titles between 1980 and 2010. The Lakers easily are the NBA’s winningest franchise since he bought the club.
Although Buss was proudest of his two hands full of NBA title rings, he also was a scholar, Renaissance man and bon vivant who epitomized California cool — and a certain Los Angeles lifestyle — for his entire public life.
The father of six rarely appeared in public without at least one attractive, much younger woman on his arm at USC football games, boxing matches, poker tournaments — and, of course, Lakers games.
Buss earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at age 24 and had careers in aerospace and real estate development before getting into sports.