Jerry Buss, the man responsible for combining Hollywood glitz with entertaining basketball to bring 10 NBA championships to Los Angeles, died on Monday after a long battle with cancer.
Wizards forward Trevor Ariza helped deliver one of the those titles for Buss during 1½ seasons with his hometown Lakers in 2009 and was understandably touched to hear about his passing.
“That’s tough man, that’s tough for the Lakers organization, the Buss family and city of L.A.,” said Ariza. “It hurts. It hurts bad that a legend like that is gone. I knew him pretty well. He came down to a lot of the practices, always at the games. Matter of fact, he lived down the street from me so I saw him quite frequently.”
Buss was passionate about keeping the Lakers relevant and competitive. He bought the franchise in 1979 and watched Magic Johnson lead the franchise to five titles during the Showtime era in the 1980s, recovered from Johnson’s untimely retirement to acquire Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in 1996, then let Phil Jackson guide the team to five more championships. Ariza had the chance to admire Buss’s vision as a fan and a player but will always remember how much fun his former boss – whom he considers the best owner the game has known – had.
“He definitely enjoyed his life. He had a great life. It’s a sad day today that it had to come to the end,” Ariza said. “Definitely, he was an unbelievable owner. For what he did for that franchise and the city is just unbelievable.”
Ariza spent his all-star break in Los Angeles, heading home directly after the Wizards lost, 96-85, to the Detroit Pistons. “ It was cool. I got to spend time with my family, got to be in the sun a little bit. Nice 80-degree weather,” he said.
But after the four-day break, Ariza was excited to get back to work and experience some carryover from a successful run of 11 wins in their past 19 games.
“We’re still hungry. We want to see what we can do. We came in here, got a good sweat in, got a good practice in. We’re trying to pick up where we left off after the break,” Ariza said, adding the players didn’t have any problem getting focused after four days off. “Not at all, it was fun. You got to sit around or work out or whatever you do during the break and then come back to see people you see every day, it’s exciting. We came in, got some good work in and we’re ready to play.”