Lakers owner Jerry Buss was hailed today as a visionary who changed the nature of sports ownership in the NBA and beyond, but also as a down-to-Earth lover of the city that embraced his franchise.
CHECK VIDEO CARAOUSEL ABOVE: Full Speeches from Johnny Buss, Phil Jackson, Shaq, Kobe and Magic Johnson.
Jerry Buss's 6 kids were at his memorial service at the Nokia theater at LA Live. Jeanne Buss who runs the teams operations was there with her fiancé former coach Phil Jackson. And Jim Buss, who runs the basketball operations was also there. But even though they were there they did not speak. The only sibling of the 6 who did was the oldest brother Johnny. Johnny will also have a hand in running the team as things move forward. He looks and sounds a lot like his dad, and he talked about how his father will be a tough act to follow.
Phil Jackson got choked up remembering Jerry Buss during the memorial service at Nokia theater. He attended with his fiancé Jeanne Buss and sat next to her during the service. He recalled a story about Jerry Buss convincing Kobe Bryant to stay on as a Laker when Kobe wanted to be traded.
Shaq brought a smile to everyone's face when he was talking about how loyal Jerry Buss was. He even poked a little fun at himself and flashed that Shaq smile. He mentioned Jerry up in heaven and told him to say hello to a few basketball greats.
Kobe Bryant has very eloquently been the face of the Lakers throughout the week handling the memorials for Jerry Buss. Before the game against the Celtics yesterday he walked out on to the court and called Buss "the greatest owner in sports." At the memorial he remembered how Buss guided him from a being a young man at 17 years old when he joined the team to being the team's leader. He also looked for inspiration for his current teammates calling on them to look around at the Laker greats around them and notice what Buss built.
Magic celebrated Jerry Buss as only Magic can. He told touching stories, remembering how well Buss treated him when he found out he had HIV in 1991. He encouraged the 3500 people in attendance to stand up and clap and make some noise, almost as though it were a basketball game. He said Jerry Buss liked to have fun and enjoyed life and he would have wanted people to have fun. He talked about Jerry at the gates of heaven looking to form his basketball team, and running into a few old friends. When he was done speaking, people were smiling, remembering all of the happy times Jerry Buss brought them.
More on Jerry Buss:
Buss, 80, died Monday morning from kidney failure after a long battle with cancer. He is credited with transforming the franchise into the most successful and glamorous team in North American professional sports.
At a memorial service at the Nokia Theater, Tim Leiweke -- president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, a part-owner of the Lakers and owner of the L.A. Live entertainment complex, which includes Staples Center -- called Buss a "professor" who taught him concepts like arena naming rights, the marketing value of floor and premier seats and even the creation of cable sports networks.
"It was amazing," he said. "These aren't just lessons. These are big and bold strokes of a genius that have changed our industry forever."
Leiweke said it was almost unimaginable to have "a partner that delivered to us seven NBA Finals, five NBA championships in our first 11 years." He also referred to the love the community has for Lakers.
"They bring us together, these Lakers do," he said. "They give us a reason to be a community. They give us a reason to cheer. Dr. Buss, that love was and is about you."
NBA Commissioner David Stern called Buss "nothing less than a transformational force in the history of sports," saying his groundbreaking work in marketing and other now-commonplace concepts in sports franchises "will continue into the future."
Stern also said that while Buss may have taken some criticism from other NBA owners -- in spite of his success -- he was always generous with his time and willing to support ideas that benefited the NBA as a whole.
"Jerry was devoted to the growth of our league and our sport and always voted for what was best for all, even though it would take away an advantage for the Lakers or cost him financially," Stern said, mentioning developments such as a salary cap and team revenue sharing.
"Jerry was a league guy," he said.
Lakers General Manager Jerry West said Buss was responsible for changing the entire nature of sports ownership.
"Here was a man who changed not only basketball, he changed all sports," West said. "He changed them all. He has left a shadow over the entire sports world."
But West said his first love was the NBA.
"He loved the league," West said. "He sacrificed for the league and he was the best owner you could be from a cooperative standpoint."
He added, "I'm not sure we'll ever in our lifetime meet a man that had the vision he did. Unbelievably bright."
One of Buss' sons, Johnny Buss, told the crowd that not all of his father's decisions were right, but "because he was always thinking ahead, everything became right."
"As his children, we will continue to shake off the prejudice of trying to fill his shoes: No one can fill his shoes," he said. Johnny Buss said he and his siblings would follow their father's lead, continuing to "surround ourselves with good, knowledgeable people" and striving to meet his desire to continue winning and maintaining a "winning dynasty for this city."
"Abraham Lincoln said, `In the end it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years,"' Johnny Buss said. "Thank you, and I love you dad."
Current and former Laker greats such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were among those speaking at the afternoon service. Former Laker coaches Phil Jackson and Pat Riley also addressed the crowd.
Jackson said he recalled his first meeting with Buss at his home and hearing him describe "how much fun he had in the 80s winning five championships" and how much he wanted to win at least one more. Jackson said he told Buss he believed the team could win more than one -- and the Lakers went on to win five more.
He also recalled meetings between Buss and Lakers star Kobe Bryant in summer 2008, when a frustrated Bryant indicated he wanted to be traded. Jackson said Buss told Bryant, "There's no equal value that we can get for you, the trade would not match what you bring to this team."
"He (Buss) prevailed, and we won two more championships," Jackson said.
Shaquille O'Neal hailed his former boss as "a visionary."
"He saw the future before any of us did, and the future he saw brought people together," O'Neal said.