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Philadelphia would love an owner like Jerry Buss

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I must admit with full disclosure that I despise the Los Angeles Lakers. However, when it was announced today that the team’s owner Jerry Buss had passed away from cancer, it truly marked the end of an era for “Showtime.”
photo: espn.go.com
Yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hasn’t played in nearly a quarter of a century and Magic Johnson for close to two decades. But superstars of their caliber followed Dr. Buss’ standards for excellence and those Laker teams won half of those 10 titles under his ownership. Despite a dry spell in the 1990’s, “Showtime” returned in the 2000’s with the signing of Shaquille O’Neal and the emergence of Kobe Bryant. To put things in perspective, ALL four major Philadelphia sports teams have won a total of six titles since 1967.

Yeah. Let that one soak in for a while..........

In today’s sports world dominated by corporate conglomerates, Jerry Buss was the last of the great owners in sports. After a successful career in real estate, Buss purchased the Lakers and the Forum (as well as the L.A. Kings) from Jack Kent Cooke (along with Cooke’s ranch) in 1979 for $67.5 million. Recently, the Lakers were valued at $1 billion. Talk about turning a profit.

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Buss was indeed a rock star, as his playboy lifestyle allowed him to blend in perfectly with the city of  Los Angeles. But he was more than just style. Buss turned the Lakers into the epicenter of Los Angeles sports. From the cheerleaders to the after-parties, Buss made “Showtime” fun. His track record speaks for itself. This guy would have been a god in Philadelphia. Not just for his personality, but for the way he spent money on his players and the results that followed. Pat Croce was a great owner, but he didn’t stick around. Ed Snider is committed to winning, but the results just aren’t there. Who else have we been saddled with? Norman Braman? Harold Katz? Yeah, winning and fun are the two first things that come to mind when I think of those guys. While Buss gave Magic Johnson a $25 million dollar contract, Braman let Eagles franchise cornerstone Reggie White leave town. While Katz was traded away his center (Moses Malone), Buss signed O’Neal and the Lakers won three more titles (two more after he was traded).

Of course, lots of other cities besides Philly would have loved to have an owner like Buss. Furthermore, if his act failed in LA, he would have been run out of town. But he succeeded, and his legacy speaks for itself.

Indeed, Jerry Buss was the last of the finest.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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photo: espn.go.com