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Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Has Died

Dr. Jerry Buss in 2004 (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
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Jerry Buss, longtime owner of the Lakers, has died at the age of 79 of complications from cancer. The Los Angeles Times is confirming the death on their front page.

Under Buss' stewardship of the Lakers from 1979, the Lakers won 10 NBA championships. The Chicago Bulls won six titles in that span while the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs won four each.

Buss bought the Lakers just as the team drafted Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a 6-foot-9 point guard from Michigan State, with the first overall pick. The magic sparked immediately as the Lakers won 60 games and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in six games in the 1980 NBA Finals. The Showtime Era was born as Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Michael Cooper and the team thrilled fans en route to eight Finals in 10 years winning five titles.

After Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson retired in the early 1990's, the Lakers fell into a period of mediocrity throughout the decade. Head coach Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal provided the cure dominating the early 2000's with a "three-peat" in the 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA Finals.

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Ever the poker player, Buss stared O'Neal and his contract demands in the face ultimately shipping him to the Miami Heat in 2004 in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a future first-round draft pick. It took several seasons, but the Lakers once again climbed the mountain in 2009 and 2010 with Bryant playing alongside Pau Gasol and Odom.

In 2010 Buss was inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game as an owner.

Gerald Hatten Buss was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in a coal mining town of Kemmerer, Wyo. Buss started out with a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Wyoming and got his Ph. D in Physical Chemistry from USC by the age of 23. According to USC in 2008 Buss worked as a chemist for the Bureau of Mines, briefly in the aerospace industry and was a faculty member in USC's chemistry department.

With a friend he invested $1,000 in an apartment building in West Los Angeles to help supplement his income as a teacher. That eventually turned into being one of the most successful sports franchise owner.

Buss bought the Lakers, Kings, the "Fabulous" Forum and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County from Jack Kent Cooke in June 1979 in what was a then record-breaking $67.5 million. Forbes Magazine in 2012 valued the Lakers at $900 million.