Liking your boss is rare. Loving your boss, well, that’s next to impossible. Believe the hyperbole or not – and it is quite believable – but Jerry Buss could very well go down as the most beloved, mega-successful owner in basketball history by coaches, players and fans alike (possibly sports history).*
Prior to Wednesday’s showdown with that team from Boston the Lakers have somewhat of a rivalry with**, Kobe took the floor to pay homage to the man who took a chance by trading for him in the 1996 Draft and later stood firm on the unpopular-at-the-time decision of choosing him over Shaq in 2004.
The Lakers’ struggles this season have been downright comical, depressing and annoying. Sometimes all at once. Yet, this isn’t the time to trash Kobe and the Lakers if you’re a L.A. antagonist. And, likewise, this isn’t the time to state your case why Kobe may or may not be the best (insert title) since (insert comparing player). The Lakers can be tiresome – putting it politically correct – and Kobe is an all-time great. Point well taken. Instead, Bryant’s speech before tipoff was poignant, short and eloquent, helping paint the legacy of Buss from one of the franchise’s most iconic players.
Meanwhile, Magic Johnson’s tears were inevitable. For as long as I, or anyone for that matter, can remember, Magic has always sung the highest of praises in regards to Dr. Buss, going so far to refer to the owner as a “second father.” It makes sense, too. Both embodied everything about “Showtime.” Both ran through more women than L.A. experiences earthquakes. Both were critical contributors in not only the Lakers’ dominance in the 1980s, but the league’s ascension into worldwide popularity as well. You go through enough battles with a person, and you begin to see apart of yourself in that person. So I get Magic’s tears. I honestly do. For Johnson, Dr. Buss’ passing was like seeing a part of him die. Nothing in life is more sobering than getting a glimpse of your own mortality.
Like the majority of the sports world over the past few days, here’s a Rest In Power to a man who ushered change to the sport I’ve come to know and love more than some of my own family members. Basketball is that important in a sense. And taking into consideration Buss came from nothing to own his own business, be around basketball everyday of his life, drink the finest wine, smoke the best weed/cigars, frolic around the most beautiful women, live in Southern California and earn the love and adoration of his peers?
This non-Lakers fan can’t do anything but respect it.
Previously – Long-Time Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Dies At 80
* – Jim, not so much.
** – From the moment this pregame ceremony went down, Boston was fighting ghosts. The Lakers won 113-99.