Longtime Los Angeles Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss died Monday at the age of 80. He had been at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in recent days with an undisclosed type of cancer. The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Buss made a fortune on Southern California real estate in the 1960s and 1970s. He then led a partnership in 1979 that bought the Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, The Forum (the arena which housed both teams) and a 13,000-acre ranch in the California Central Valley from Jack Kent Cooke, who achieved fame through his ownership of the Washington Redskins. The Lakers’ piece was valued at $20 million. Last month the team was valued at $1 billion in Forbes annual look at the business of basketball.
While $20 million might seem like a bargain for a marquee franchise like the Lakers, the NBA was a very different league in 1979. The league was reeling from drug allegations. Playoff games were shown on tape-delay. CBS and USA paid less than $20 million annually for the broadcast rights to the entire league. It was also the year that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird joined the NBA and it began its staggering ascent over the next three decades. The Lakers and Buss were in the middle of it all.