Jerry Buss wasn't the primary reason for the NBA's evolution in economics and entertainment, but he rode shotgun on that express.
The Lakers owner who died Monday from cancer at 80 grew up poor, standing in food lines in the snow in Wyoming as a youth, hoping for a hot meal and a warm coat. In Los Angeles, he made millions with real estate sales in the 1960s and '70s, his ambition soaring with his wealth.
To satisfy his quest to lead and reinvent, Buss made sports history in 1979 when he obtained the Lakers, the NHL's Kings, the Forum and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for a tidy total of $67 million.
The Lakers' price tag was $16 million.
By comparison, the Kings in 1983 sold to a Sacramento group headed by Gregg Lukenbill for $10.5 million. The Lakers are now valued at $1 billion, while the Kings have been valued at $525 million.
Buss infused entertainment athletes, cheerleaders, Hollywood stars into a struggling NBA. There were sagging TV ratings (NBA Finals games in the late '70s were on tape delay), some teams were on the brink of bankruptcy, and drug use was rampant.
Buss urged Jack Kent Cooke, from whom Buss was in the process of buying the team, to draft Magic Johnson, the centerpiece to the "Showtime" Lakers.
The Lakers won 10 NBA championships under Buss, perhaps the greatest owner of a pro sports team. He was also so respected by his players and coaches, past and present, that news of his failing health didn't become public until recently.
What to watch
NBA, Kings vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m., CSNCA: The Kings play their third and final home game of February.
What is the greatest pro sports dynasty?
Celtics, 17 (titles)
Vote above or leave your comments in the comments field; or go to www.sacbee.com/sports
Monday's poll results
What should the 49ers do with Alex Smith?
Trade him: 67%
Keep him: 33%
Total votes: 317
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