Gerald Hatten “Jerry” Buss (January 27, 1933 – February 18, 2013) was an American businessman, investor, chemist, and philanthropist. He was the majority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association (NBA), winning 10 league championships that were highlighted by the team’s Showtime era during the 1980s. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. Buss also owned other professional sports franchises in Southern California.
Buss became an owner of the Los Angeles Strings in World Team Tennis. He purchased the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA along with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team of the NHL, The Forum, and a large ranch from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979. Buss later sold the Kings, retaining ownership of the Lakers and The Forum. He then reached a major advertising agreement with Great Western Bank for the naming rights to The Forum, resulting in the official name of the building being changed to the Great Western Forum.
Later, when the WNBA was formed in 1996, Buss took charge of operating that league’s Los Angeles franchise, the Los Angeles Sparks. Eventually, all three teams moved into a more modern arena in downtown Los Angeles, the Staples Center, which opened in 1999. As part of the deal to move the Lakers into Staples Center, Buss sold the Great Western Forum (which was later reverted to its original name).
The Lakers were very successful under Buss’ ownership, winning ten NBA championships with such players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and with coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. He inspired the Lakers’ Showtime era with his vision that basketball games must be entertaining. The Sparks also experienced their share of success, winning two WNBA championships with such players as Lisa Leslie, Tamecka Dixon and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
In 2002, when the WNBA was restructured to give its teams individual owners, Buss took ownership of the Sparks. He sold the team in 2006. Buss also owned the Los Angeles Lazers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. The Lazers also played in The Forum. The team folded in 1989 and the league folded three years later.
His contributions to basketball were recognized by his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.