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“Riley, the former broadcaster who fit the L.A. image perfectly with his slick-backed hair and good looks, was surprisingly promoted by Buss early in the 1981-82 season after West declined to co-coach the team. Riley became one of the best coaches in NBA history, leading the Lakers to four straight NBA Finals and four titles, with Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and A.C. Green playing major roles. "Today, in the world of sports, we have lost a true giant," Riley said in a statement. "Jerry Buss was more than just an owner. He was one of the great innovators that any sport has ever encountered. He was a true visionary and it was obvious with the Lakers in the 80's that 'Showtime' was more than just Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was really the vision of a man who saw something that connected with a community. "I was privileged to be part of that for 10 years and even more grateful for the friendship that has lasted all these many years. I have always come to realize that if it weren't for Dr. Buss, I wouldn't be where I am today. I owe my start in professional coaching to him, and I will always hold him and his memory in the highest of regards." Overall, the Lakers made the finals nine times in Buss' first 12 seasons while rekindling the NBA's best rivalry with the Boston Celtics, and Buss basked in the worldwide celebrity he received from his team's achievements. His womanizing and partying became Hollywood legend, with even his players struggling to keep up with Buss' lifestyle. Johnson's HIV diagnosis and retirement in 1991 staggered Buss and the Lakers, the owner recalled in 2011. The Lakers struggled through much of the 1990s, going through seven coaches and making just one conference finals appearance in an eight-year stretch despite the 1996 arrivals of O'Neal, who signed with Los Angeles as a free agent, and Bryant, the 17-year-old high schooler acquired in a draft-week trade. O'Neal and Bryant didn't reach their potential until Buss persuaded Jackson, a six-time NBA champion while coaching the Chicago Bulls, to take over the Lakers in 1999. Los Angeles immediately won the next three NBA titles in brand-new Staples Center, AEG's state-of-the-art downtown arena built with the Lakers as the primary tenant. After the Lakers traded O'Neal in 2004, they hovered in mediocrity again until acquiring Gasol in a heist of a trade with Memphis in early 2008. Los Angeles made the next three NBA Finals, winning two more titles. Through the Lakers' frequent successes and occasional struggles, Buss never stopped living his Hollywood dream. He was an avid poker player, frequently participating in high-stakes tournaments, and a fixture on the Los Angeles club scene well into his 70s, when a late-night drunk-driving arrest in 2007 -- with a 23-year-old woman in the passenger seat of his Mercedes-Benz -- prompted him to cut down on his partying. Buss owned the NHL's Kings from 1979 to '87, and the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks also won two league titles under Buss' ownership. He also owned Los Angeles franchises in World Team Tennis and the Major Indoor Soccer League. Jerry Buss still served two terms as president of the NBA's Board of Governors and was actively involved in the 2011 lockout negotiations, developing blood clots in his legs attributed to his extensive travel during that time. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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.” -- Buss family statement