Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss died Monday. He was 80 years old.
The Lakers said only that Buss died at 5:55 a.m. PT after a long illness. It had been reported last week that Buss had been hospitalized because of cancer and wasn't expected to live much longer.
According to a statement released by the family through the Lakers, Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months.
"We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community," the statement read.
Buss purchased the Lakers, as well as the NHL's Kings and the Forum, in 1979 from Jack Kent Cooke for a reported $67 million. The Lakers have won 10 of their 16 NBA titles under Buss' stewardship.
"It was our father's often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy," the family's statement concluded.
The Lakers, with Buss at the helm, helped transform the NBA from a middling league into a media powerhouse.
Magic Johnson became a Laker in 1979 and the "Showtime" era was effectively born. The Lakers, with Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading the way, won the NBA title in the spring of 1980, the first of five championships in a nine-year span.
It took awhile, but the Lakers again became an NBA power at the beginning of the new century. Behind the tandem of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, LA won three straight titles from 2000-02, then with Bryant still the driving force, captured back-to-back crowns again in 2009-10.
"The NBA has lost a visionary owner whose influence on our league is incalculable and will be felt for decades to come," said NBA commissioner David Stern in a statement. "More importantly, we have lost a dear and valued friend. Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time."
Buss is survived by sons Johnny, Jim, Joey and Jesse and daughters Jeanie Buss and Janie Drexel, all of Southern California; eight grandchildren; former wife JoAnn of Las Vegas; half-sister Susan Hall of Phoenix; half-brother Micky Brown of Scottsdale; and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyoming.