Lakers honor late Jerry Buss

Updated: January 29, 2014, 9:50 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- A day after what would have been the late Dr. Jerry Buss' 81st birthday, the Lakers celebrated the legendary team owner's life during their game against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.

The Lakers presented fans in attendance with bobblehead dolls depicting Buss sporting his trademark mustache and clutching the Larry O'Brien Trophy, representing one of the many titles the franchise won under his watch.

Pictures of Buss, as well as of the "JB" patch the team wore last season in his honor, were also printed on the Lakers tickets for the game purchased by season-ticket holders.

Buss oversaw an unprecedented era of winning in Los Angeles after purchasing the Lakers for $67.5 million in 1979, capturing 10 NBA championships and reaching 16 Finals in his 34 years as the owner.

"The impact he put on sports in general just is everlasting, and it's unbelievable what he did," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game.

In addition, the team honored Buss, elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010, with a video tribute at halftime.

"He is a man who was way ahead of his time," Magic Johnson said in the video. "He understood entertainment value, he understood history, he understood how to bring the best basketball players together as well as the best management team and provide entertainment to this great city, but also to the world at the same time."

Throughout the course of the game, the team also showed clips of various Lakers legends, including Pat Riley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sharing their thoughts about Buss at a memorial service last year.

"There was great pride fueled by this incredible passion to win," Riley said in the video. "And to do it in a way that no one has ever done it before. That was Jerry's dream, and it came true."

At one point during a timeout, the video screen showed a fan at the game wearing a T-shirt with Buss' likeness on the front.

"Oh, that's so sweet," Jeanie Buss, Lakers chief of business operations and Buss' daughter, could be seen saying from her second-row seat across from the Lakers' bench. "Wow."

At another point, the video screen showed a photograph of Buss receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame while Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights" played over the public address system. "Break the Barriers," a nonprofit organization featuring mentally and physically disabled children performing a gymnastics routine, was selected as the halftime act to recognize Buss' charitable efforts with child-outreach programs.

Meanwhile, the Lakers lost to Indiana 104-92, dropping them to last place in the Western Conference. It was their 17th loss in their last 20 games.

"It's a great organization, still is a great organization," D'Antoni said before the game. "I have my troubles keeping my head down and keep going forward trying to get the work done but you can't underestimate what [Buss] means to L.A. and to the Lakers."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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