Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss dies at 80

Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:44pm EST
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By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jerry Buss, who parlayed a $1,000 real estate investment into ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 10 National Basketball Association championships and making the team one of the most glamorous in American sports, died on Monday at 80, the team said on its official website.

Buss, who matched superstar players with brilliant coaches and savvy executives, had been hospitalized recently for cancer. The official cause of death was kidney failure, said Lakers spokesman John Black.

Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months and had not been to a Lakers game this season.

"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.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said the NBA had "lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come."

Buss bought the Lakers in 1979 and under his ownership they became the second most valuable professional basketball team behind the New York Knicks, worth an estimated $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

They won league championships during their "Showtime" era in 1980s and early '90s with teams that feature some of the game's marquee names, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. The team had more dominant years in the late 1990s through 2004 with superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

In addition to winning championships with all-star players, the flashy Showtime teams transcended sport. Live music, dancers and a festive atmosphere made the games like a party and celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dyan Cannon and Denzel Washington were regulars.   Continued...

File photo of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss leaving after NBA labor meetings in New York October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid