Lakers owner Jerry Buss dies at 80
City News Service | 2/18/2013, 9:33 a.m.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.--Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who helped transform the franchise into the most successful and glamorous team in North American professional sports, died today, the team and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center confirm. He was 80.
Buss died at 5:55 a.m., according to Cedars-Sinai spokeswoman Sally Stewart.
Buss had spent time in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with an undisclosed form of cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In December 2011, he was hospitalized for treatment of blood clots in his legs that officials said were caused by extensive traveling.
"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.
Buss had been hospitalized for much of the past 18 months in a battle which "showed his amazing strength and will to live. It was our father's often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy," the statement concluded.
Buss is survived by sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel, all of Southern California; eight grandchildren; former wife JoAnn of Las Vegas; half sister Susan Hall of Phoenix; half brother Micky Brown of Scottsdale; and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyoming.
The Lakers are expected to remain in control of the Buss family. Buss's son Jim is the team's executive vice president of player personnel, and his daughter, Jeanie, is executive vice president of business operations.
Another son, Johnny, is executive vice president of strategic development; and daughter Janie Drexel is director of charitable services.
Buss's son Jesse is director of scouting.
In addition to his five children involved with the Lakers, son Joey is chief executive officer of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' NBA Development League affiliate.
"Dr. Buss was not only the greatest sports owner, but a true friend & just a really cool guy," Hall of Fame forward James Worthy, who played with the Lakers from 1982 until 1994, wrote on his Twitter account. "Loved him dearly."
In a statement the Los Angeles Dodgers organization extended "its deepest sympathies to the Buss family and the Los Angeles Lakers' organization on the passing of one of the greatest owners in NBA history."
The statement continued, "Jerry Buss made great contributions to the sporting landscape of Los Angeles and America and was a true champion in every sense of the word. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Buss family."
In 1979, Buss purchased the Lakers, Forum, Los Angeles Kings hockey team and a 13,000-acre Kern County ranch from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million, then the largest transaction in sports history.
When Buss purchased the team, it had won one championship in the previous 25 seasons and had lost nine times in the NBA finals during that span, including four seven-game series.