L.A. Laker’s owner Dr. Jerry Buss died at 5:55 a.m. Monday after a long fight with cancer, according to multiple reports. He was 80. Dr. Buss was dating Cynthia Chavez at the time of his death.
Buss had an unrevealed form of cancer. He spent time in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, citing “multiple team personnel.”
Buss has been in and out of the hospital for the last 2 years. The Lakers confirmed he was in the hospital in December 2011 for blood clots in his leg, which they said was caused by too much traveling.
Buss has passed the daily process of the team on to his children, Jim (who oversees basketball operations) and Jeanie (who oversees the business side of the franchise). He was involved, though, in the off season acquirement of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, and in the in-season coaching move about that fired Mike Brown and hired Mike D’Antoni.
ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly quoted Nash in an editorial two weeks ago about his first gathering with Buss:
“I went to the hospital in September, and we had a great talk,” Nash said. “It was supposed to be five minutes, but we talked for about an hour. You could see he was fighting something big, but he still had a great spirit, a great mind. He’s still full of life.”
The Times reported that an amount of current and former Lakers have visited Buss in the hospital in recent months.
Buss has owned the team ever since 1979, when he purchased the Lakers, the Forum, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and real estate from Jack Kent Cooke. The team has won 10 of its 16 titles under Buss’ ownership.
“I think if you look at the impact that he’s had globally on the game, some of the decisions that he’s made and the brand of basketball that he brought and the impact that’s had on the sport as a whole — his vibrations were felt all the way to a kid in Italy at 6 years old, before the sport was even global. His impact is worldwide.” Kobe Bryant said.
Clippers forward Ronny Turiaf , who was drafted by the Lakers in 2005, said that Dr. Buss saved his life when he paid for all Turiaf’s health check treatment after doctors discovered an enlarged aortic root in his heart. The Lakers were forced to annul his contract, but they held on to his rights and supported him during his recuperation.
“He saved my life. He allowed me to continue my career in the NBA,” Turiaf “He was always very open to any kind of conversation with me and took interest in me as a human being. Not only him, but also Jim. When I played in Yakima, Wash., in the CBA, Jim came to see me play. Dr. Buss and Jim, they’ve always reached out over the years.
“When you’re going through something like that and you’re faced with a life-and-death situation, you are thankful that somebody is kind enough to do that. Surprised is not the word — it’s thankful.”
The Lakers were recently valued at $1 billion by Forbes magazine, the second most expensive team in the NBA after the NY Nicks.
**UPDATE** Delia Cortez was Jerry Buss’s current girlfriend at the moment of his death.