owner Jerry Buss has reportedly died after battling cancer. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
By Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney
Jerry Buss, the longtime Lakers owner who led the franchise to 10 NBA championships, died Monday morning, according to the Los Angeles Times and CBSSports.com. He was 80.
The Lakers confirmed Buss's death in a statement.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community,” the family's statement said.
Buss had been hospitalized on numerous occasions in recent years and it was reported last week that he had been battling cancer for an extended period of time, according to multiple reports. The resulting concerns over Buss' health were reported to be the reason that he took on a less active role with the Lakers in recent years. He leaves behind his two oldest children, Jim (who currently serves as executive vice president of player personnel) and Jeanie (who currently serves as executive vice president of business operations) as the heir apparents of the franchise.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Buss has been in intensive care with an undisclosed form of cancer and that a number of Lakers greats had visited him, including Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
FoxSportsWest.com reported that Bryant praised Buss during All-Star Weekend in Houston on Friday.
"He's meant everything to me in my career in terms of taking a risk on a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school and then believing in me my entire career. And then for the game itself, the brand of basketball that he implemented in Showtime carried the league," Bryant said.
Bryant was asked Friday about Buss' overall imprint on the game.
"It's beyond measure," Bryant said. "There's nothing you can do to really define it. What he's done consistently, it's tough to really find a match for that in any sport. He's been a model of consistency."
The Buss family said Monday that they will work to keep the Lakers in their family for the foreseeable future.
"It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family," the family's statement said. "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."
Buss originally came into the circle of NBA owners by purchasing the Lakers for just $16 million in 1979, following a successful run on the real estate market. Since, he's become one of the most accomplished and successful owners in all of professional sports. The Lakers won 10 titles (and earned 16 Finals appearances) under his watch, all without having to trudge through a lengthy rebuild. The franchise simply shifted between eras of dominance -- from the early days of Kareem and Magic to Showtime to the 2000s three-peat to the more recent Kobe Bryant-driven iterations -- without pause or hesitation. Many would claim that there's a self-propelling nature to a glitzy franchise like the Lakers thriving based on their own reputation and past successes, but Buss is the party responsible for turning a historical franchise into just that kind of institution. He trusted the right coaches and executives to get his team where it needed to go, and guided the Lakers without getting in their way.
Buss was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement on Monday after the news of Buss' passing had spread:
“The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come. More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”