Dr. Jerry Buss (Jan. 27, 1933 - Feb. 18, 2013) was the greatest owner in NBA history. In fact, the chemist and card player was arguably the best owner in sports history. The day after this year's All-Star Game in Houston, the NBA's brightest star faded away. With Buss's passing, David Stern's Association lost its most accomplished boss, savviest visionary and coolest 80-year-old.
Buss was a brand builder who purchased the Los Angeles Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979 and transformed the franchise into the "Showtime" staple of Staples Center they are today. He did so by hiring the best and brightest as well as cultivating an environment that attracted the top talent to Hollywood. It starts from the top, but there were plenty of Hall of Famers and all-time greats wearing purple and gold during Buss's reign of 10 NBA Championships:
1. Jerry Buss
The good Doctor knew how to throw a party, making Lakers courtside seats the place to be and be seen while flipping his franchise's price tag from just one piece of a nearly $70 million purchase (which also included the NHL's Kings, The Forum and a ranch) into a $900 million asset, according to a recent Forbes estimate.
2. Magic Johnson
Guard (1979-91, ’96)
Of all the stars in Hollywood, Magic had the brightest smile and the most style, at least while leading a five-time NBA title-winning fast break that changed the way the game is played.
3. Kobe Bryant
Straight out of high school it was clear that Kobe was the next Laker great. Five rings and two Olympic gold medals later, Black Mamba has slithered his way as far up this list as possible.
4. Jerry West
The Logo's playing days were pre-Buss. But his foresight in the front office made West more valuable than even a franchise 7-footer.
5. Shaquille O’Neal
Say what you will about Diesel, he was Superman and Kobe was his sidekick during the three-peat days. It shouldn't take the Big Aristotle to figure that out.
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Lew Alcindor was better and Roger Murdock was funnier, but Kareem deserves a statue, if only to immortalize the Sky Hook. Right?
7. Pat Riley
A champ as a pre-Buss player on the 1972 title team and an assistant to Paul Westhead on the 1980 title team, Riles was Magic's main man for the next four rings (1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). The epitome of "Showtime."
8. Phil Jackson
Coach (1999-2004, 2005-11)
The Zen Master won five rings (2000-02, '09-10) with Kobe's Lakers after winning six rings with Michael Jordan's Bulls. Plus, he's engaged to Jerry's daughter Jeanie, so that's like winning a sixth ring for the Lake Show.
9. Chick Hearn
The voice of the Lakers for 3,338 consecutive games, Hearn's last game was a three-peat clinching win over the Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals. No harm, no foul. Never an air ball. Chick was a slam dunk for this list.
10. Jack Nicholson
Heeeeeerrrre's Jackie! No one's cooler. And no, you can't wear sunglasses indoors just cause Jack does. He's Jack, that's why. Jack's been around since before Buss was boss.
11. James Worthy
Big Game James was a No. 1 overall pick and Finals MVP and he can't beat out a play-by-play guy and a courtside season-ticket holder!? You've got to be kidding me!?
12. Pau Gasol
Mike D'Antoni clearly doesn't agree. But D'Antoni has also proven he doesn't know much about the Lakers. Ask Phil, he knows better. If only Jim Buss would ask Phil - or Jeanie, she knows better.
13. Jamaal Wilkes
UCLA legacy carried over to L.A. Lakers, with five championships between the two stops along with a pair of No. 52 retired jerseys.
14. Jeanie Buss
Brilliant and beautiful, daddy's girl has been the brains of the business side since Jerry took a step back several years ago. Thankfully, Jeanie is taking Jerry's seat on the NBA Board of Governors.
15. Mitch Kupchak
When John Malkovich had hair, he looked like Jerry West's protege. Or vice versa?
16. Byron Scott
"Showtime" shooter. Who knew that he really was a "coach on the floor?"
17. Michael Cooper
Lockdown defender was on all five of Magic's championship teams, playing his role to perfection.
18. Derek Fisher
Guard (1996-2004, '07-12)
Another five-ring bearer, Fish came in with Kobe but hoped to go out with anyone but Billy Hunter.
19. Robert Horry
Big Shot Bob has seven total rings, that's more than anyone who didn't play with Bill Russell. Don't forget about Bob playing with Hakeem, Shaq and Duncan, though. Plus, he looked a little like Will Smith when he was in L.A. winning three rings.
20. A.C. Green
Forward (1985-93, '99-00)
Ask anyone what A.C. is known for. It's not for being a basketball player. It's for being a ...
21. Vlade Divac
Center (1989-96, 2004-05)
Well, Vlade's known for being a flopper. Maybe he even introduced the flop to the NBA. But he was also the trade chip that acquired an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets. Remember that far back? Not the Charlotte Bobcats, or the New Orleans Hornets, or even the New Orleans Pelicans...
22. Lamar Odom
Love the rumor that Khloe Kardashian is O.J.'s daughter. Lefty Lamar is a point forward with Clippers pedigree, but his best days were as a Laker, that's a reality.
23. Nick Van Exel
Nick the Quick was a second-round steal who turned into a bridge between Magic and Kobe. Someone had to represent the dark, dark championship void.
24. Kurt Rambis
The glasses are timeless.
25. Paula Abdul
Abdul parlayed Laker Girl status into American Idol stardom. Surely she thanks Jerry Buss. Without him, it likely wouldn't have been possible. We all thank you, Jerry. You will be missed. R.I.P.