They come in all sizes and shapes, with all types of backgrounds. Some have money; some do not. Some are philanthropists; others frauds.
But, no owner will surpass the success, the reverence and the flash that Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss brought to Southern California.
Buss passed away after a bitter 16-month battle with cancer early Monday morning, leaving behind a legacy probably never to be matched by any owner in time.
A native of Wyoming, who came from a broken home, Buss was all about industry. He was all about education — a self-made doctoral candidate who ventured off to become a tycoon in real estate.
He was so far ahead of the curve in terms of entertainment and business vision that you knew he had to succeed.
Buss purchased the Lakers in 1979 from someone so polar-opposite, you wondered how they could sit across the table from each other in negotiations.
Jack Kent Cooke may have been a Canadian industrialist, but he was cruel, hostile, relentless and probably universally disliked as the owner of the Lakers, Kings and the Washington Redskins.
Jerry Buss was jovial, fun loving, caring and dynamic. He hired people, let them do their jobs and cared about the bottom line. Not the bottom line as in dollars and cents, but the bottom line of winning.
The roster of Lakers stars is an amazing roll-call of talent and leadership. It is a tribute to the man’s knowledge and his wealth. If the Lakers needed it, he went and got it.
He hired great people to run his team — from Jerry West to Phil Jackson. He groomed longtime employees like Pat Riley and the highly regarded general manager Mitch Kupchak.
He let his people work deals and he closed them. He signed free agents. He sold tradition and loyalty, and made the Lakers a destination point for one and all.
The roster of Lakers legends stretches the length of Rodeo Drive – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, Bob McAdoo, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Pao Gasol, Dwight Howard.
But he made the little guy feel special, which is why Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis will always have a place in Lakers fans’ hearts.
Lakers basketball in that era was Chick Hearn on radio and television. It was the hatred of Red Auerbach, Boston and those Celtics cigars. It was always the next team to step up to get knocked out.
He was revered and respected by Commissioner Davis Stern and likely condemned by fellow owners who spent wildly, but without his success.
His greatest moments were the nights they raised the trophy and hung the banner. A playboy at heart with women around him everywhere, Buss seldom stood in the spotlight, so the players and coaches could bask in the limelight.
His saddest moment may well have been the press conference when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV, contracted from his lifestyle. His most discouraging moment was when Shaq insulted him when he looked at the owner courtside and whispered “Pay me.”
His most upsetting moment might have been when Kobe asked to be traded. His hardest moment might have been recently when he changed his mind about re-hiring Phil Jackson a third time, knowing in-fighting would follow shortly with son Jim Buss who is currently running the team.
In the end, Jerry Buss’ legacy is 10 championship rings, 16 trips to the finals, Showtime, the Lakers girls and a roster of great players forever thankful for donning the colors of the team.
He was a card player, a riverboat gambler, a showman and an entertainer. He was as astute a businessman as pro sports ever saw. He was a winner.
They should hold a public viewing at the Staples Center, the crown jewel of a building Buss helped get built. The man who made the Great Western Forum special deserves a state-like funeral.
I doubt we will ever see this kind of greatness ever again in pro sports in Southern California. Lakers basketball is him and he made Lakers basketball something special forever.