Created by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht, HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ charts the Los Angeles Lakers’ dominant reign in the 1980s. It was called the “Showtime Era” for the fast-paced basketball the team was known for. The show picks up with the team ownership being sold to Jerry Buss in 1979, later becoming one of the most significant moments in Lakers’ history. Jerry turned the team around, ending with ten championships during his tenure. So, let’s find out more about him then, shall we?
What Happened to Jerry Buss? How Did He Die?
Beginning in 1979 and until he died in 2013, Jerry left behind a legacy of winning and was considered one of the most successful team owners of all time. Under his ownership, the Los Angeles Lakers won 10 of their 17 titles, reaching the finals 16 times. But apart from the Lakers, Jerry also bought the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, The Forum (where the Lakers played their home games before moving to Crypto Arena in 1999), and a ranch for $67.5 million.
At the time, many thought Jerry was making a terrible investment buying the Lakers, but he had a vision for the team that he made sure they achieved during his tenure there. Under Jerry, the Lakers fielded some of the most formidable lineups in the sports’ history, with the 1980s seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson together and the 2000s having Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal lighting up the scoreboard.
Jerry was considered a player’s owner and had maintained close relationships with Magic and Kobe. He wasn’t afraid to make unpopular choices if he believed that would lead the team to win, and most times, it came off. Kobe once said of Jerry, “He’s extremely, extremely intelligent and extremely patient. He’ll sit and he’ll wait because he has his goals, and he knows exactly where he wants to be and how to construct a ballclub. He’s just extremely smart in how he goes about it. It’s very rare to find that kind of owner who seemingly doesn’t make any mistakes.”
Jerry was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 as a contributor. By the 2010s, he had all six of his children working for the Lakers organization, a plan he had envisioned a long time ago by training them early on. Jerry said, “I want to prepare them for the day they take over the operation. I feel better having family members involved.” On February 18, 2013, he died after a long battle with cancer that saw him spend his last 18 months in a hospital. The 80-year-old’s immediate cause of death was kidney failure. At the time of Jerry’s death, the Lakers were valued at around $1 billion.