It's impossible to map out how death can affect a person. One man's sorrow is another man's revelation. The loss of Dr. Jerry Buss has touched everybody here in one way or another. Some will recall the days they went to the Fabulous Forum and saw the good Doc' sitting court-side reveling in the "Showtime" he created. An environment he built that forever changed the presentation of basketball to the masses.
Others will find refuge in the decisions he made, and at times, didn't make as he instilled trust to the likes of Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak, amongst others, to help turn his fantastic vision of basketball into glorious validation in Larry O'Brien trophies. Others will simply know that this man built an empire that they know believe in, reside in, so deeply that they spend their free time invested entirely in the team. Reading every word from every writer on every platform tagged with Lakers.
Win, loss, or otherwise, it's purple and gold till the end.
The loss of Dr. Buss is saddening, first and foremost. The news had been looming for days--a heavy weight in the chest mind you-- that the end may be coming soon. The initial reports weren't positive, but all public relations from the team maintained an optimism that let hope flicker. Not quite a candle in the dark sky, but a single matchstick. A flame is a flame, though, and anything is better than nothing.
But Dr. Buss passed-- a mortal just like the rest of us. A mortal man with an immortal legacy. A legacy that is painted in stars around the logo he helped turn into basketball lore. The Los Angeles Lakers will grace many pages of the National Basketball Association's history once the book is finally closed. Finally closed, because nothing lasts forever, and there will come a day when not even the Association withstands Father Time pulling at it's coattails. That day is not today, and we may never see it in our lifetime. But it's out there, somewhere, waiting in the abyss that is time.
Everything must come to an end.
In the midst of a tumultuous season that seems to drag further down into the depths with each defeat and injury, it suddenly all becomes so irrelevant. The losses that have amassed are now just dust in the wind of reality. The reach of this singular event is far beyond a "terrible" season. This is the leader, the steward, the man who made Showtime leaving his throne behind. It doesn't matter who's taking the seat at this juncture, the overarching truth is that he has now vacated it. It doesn't necessarily matter so much who is in it, right now, but that it isn't Jerry Buss.
Since 1979 Jerry Buss has fought for what he loved. He has fought to bring the best possible product on the floor in every way imaginable. Presentation, class, style, and most importantly-- the basketball. Jerry Buss made the Lakers a spectacle to watch.
He took the sport of basketball and infused everything that isn't basketball into it to create greatness. He pushed and evolved the sport of basketball and turned it into sports entertainment. The Forum was an intimate madhouse where fans came together and got lost in basketball fantasy within it. Fitting that a building inspired by the Roman Forum became the birthplace of the Buss empire.
But the Showtime that grew up within it is gone. Just the echo of purple and gold ghosts remain from the Showtime Era. It, too, came to an end. The Lakers moved on and into Staples Center. A modern giant of a building. Not a welcoming place to cheer on the greatest show on Earth like the Forum, but a vessel to house an empire that had grown. Oh, how it has grown since 1979.
We all come from different walks of life. Some of us were born into being Lakers fans, some grew with the Lakers empire and watched Dr. Buss create the larger than life persona with each Kobe Bryant and his maniacal dedication to the game. We all have different stories as to why we're here talking about this.Johnson beaming smile, some were traded to Los Angeles along with Shaquille O'Neal over a decade ago, while others have gravitated towards
Me? I was born into it. While I spent my childhood alongside my uncle, Anthony Robles, at my grandparents in Whittier, California and groomed into a fan of the Lakers. Only a child, my uncle was sure to pass the torch to me before I could ever stray off the path. No Lakers fan would ever allow their nephew be anything less than a Lakers fan, right? Twenty-some odd years later, he would have never though I'd wield the torch the way I do today. I was young, I was impressionable, and I loved my uncle more than anything in the world.
Those weekends watching the Lakers left an imprint on my life, and once I grew to fully grasp what fandom and basketball was, it was never in question. I was, and forever will be, a Lakers fan. While my father was away working 60 hours a week to put food on the table, I sat and soaked in everything my uncle laid down when it came to the Lakers, and life. He went out in the front yard and played quarterback while I pretended to be Jerry Rice.
He'd pitch me foil balls so I could swing at them with a miniature wooden Dodgers bat since we didn't have any actual baseballs on hand, let alone Louisville Sluggers. He'd take me to 7-11 to buy me a Slurpee that I would always half-and-half mix with cherry (red, of course) and Coca-Cola. He pulled me out of my grandparent's pool when I was just a toddler that fell in unknowingly, set to drown at the bottom of my family's watery getaway. At a moments notice he dove in fully clothed and emerged with my life in his hands. He taught me how to do a sky hook (or something like it) and the importance of a bounce pass. My favorite thing he used to say, oddly enough, was "tooooo many steps, Elden... CAMPBELL". He loved the Lakers so deeply that I still wish I had just a fraction of the passion he did.
To this day I still pattern myself after him, and carry on mannerisms that I also picked up on as I looked up to him.
In 2005 he passed away, unexpectedly. A defining moment in my life as death yet again showed it's inevitably. Now, I face something I've never considered, and only realized it as it disappeared. Today, I lost the last link that brought me where I am today: a die-hard fan that has the opportunity to write about the greatest team on this planet, the Los Angeles Lakers. Without Showtime, that fanatical love that was planted in my uncle for the Lakers would never have gotten the chance to become a love I now grow with.
Thank you, Dr. Jerry Buss, for making the Lakers, the Lakers. Without you, I wouldn't have all of the memories I shared with my uncle before he left me, and without you we wouldn't all be here. A grieving fan-base, but a united fan-base. Despite all the differences of opinion during a season that has been testing, we are here.
- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN