Sad news today, and Laker fans across the world will be mourning the loss of the great Dr. Jerry Buss. At the age of 80, longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dr. Buss passed away early this morning after battling cancer. This man has one of the greatest self-made multi-millionaire stories out there. This man was not just a business owner, but he was an innovator and creator of what the NBA has become today, especially with the Lakers. But before becoming the most recognized sports owner, he started out at the bottom. Born in the Depression era, and raised by his mother only Dr. Buss born in Salt Lake City Utah, and grew up in a small town in Wyoming. He attended college at the University of Wyoming and got his BS degree. He then later attended the University of Southern California because of their well recognized athletic program. At that time he then realized his love for basketball and became a huge fan. Jerry Buss then received his Masters of Science and Ph.D. in chemistry. At that time while attending USC while He later found success in real estate investments, and was able to turn a $1,000 investment on an apartment complex in the city of Los Angeles into his now million dollar empire. One of his most recognized real estate transactions would be his acquisition of the Great Western Forum, which also included the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings. In 1979 after two years of back and forth negotiations and $67.5 million dollars later, he would then find himself the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and the Forum. At that time this went down down in the books as the largest transaction in sports history. Like a real estate investment, he soon would realize the organization would need to take drastic measures to get the attention of LA’s fan base. That secret formula meant the Lakers would need to secure the superstars of the NBA, leading to a new lifetime friendship with new point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson. The Laker Organization would then go on to win 10 championships together, five of those championships while Magic was a player, and the five more while he was part owner of the Lakers with Dr. Buss.
This man knew spending good money if calculated correctly would bring the fans and revenue would soon follow. Signing on Magic, Kobe, Shaq, and bringing on Coach Pat Riley, as well as arguably the greatest coach of all time Phil Jackson are all signs of great investments for their business. Not only was this businessman great at running a NBA team, but he knew how to get the exposure. In 1985 he realized early on the power of television, and assisted with the launch of Prime Ticket Network. That increased exposure, and helped grow the fan base and the Laker brand that we know today. Because of those efforts over a quarter of a century ago, the Lakers broadcasting rights is the most valuable in the NBA today. Time Warner announced in October 2012 they would have the broadcasting rights for the next 20 years for the sum of $3 billion dollars.
The innovator Dr. Buss also was the first to sell the naming rights of their home court the Forum to the Great Western Bank, which would then take the name of the “Great Western Forum”. Soon later other professional sports teams would follow suit and do the same. Because of his ownership of the LA Kings, he was the first to offer advertising rights on the dasher boards, which we now see today filled with advertisements.
Gambler at heart, poker players like chemists make those calculated risks and that’s what made Dr Buss a successful business owner. Every chemist goes through formulas, as did Dr. Buss. He was able to create the winning formula for the greatest NBA team of all time, the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers were recently valued at $1 billion dollars, the 2nd highest in the NBA. Not too bad for a chemist turned real estate investor turned greatest NBA owner of all time, rest in peace Dr. Buss.