SALT LAKE CITY — In a city that drips glitz and glamor, Dr. Jerry Buss made himself into a Los Angeles legend.
The late owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Buss was memorialized last week in L.A., days after dying at age 80.
Today will mark the Utah Jazz’s first trip to L.A. since Buss’ passing. They won’t be playing the Lakers, but instead will meet up with the city’s other NBA franchise, the Clippers.
Buss’ invitation-only memorial took place last Thursday at the Nokia Theater, just across the street from Staples Center, the Lakers’ and Clippers’ shared arena.
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said he met Buss once, as a young player coming out of DePaul in the mid-1980s.
“When I came out of DePaul I visited the Lakers and I had an opportunity to meet him then,” Corbin said. “He was a very charismatic man. At that time I was a young guy, afraid of everything about the league. He was really warm.”
Corbin said he remembers chatting with Buss specifically about the storied Lakers franchise, which he bought in 1979.
The Lakers won 10 titles under Buss’ watch.
“It’s a tremendous loss for everybody,” Corbin said last week. “The way he ran his franchise and the commitment to excellence he had was long lasting.”
Like Corbin, Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey didn’t know Buss well, but certainly knew of him.
Lindsey, in his first season with the Jazz, is a 17-year veteran of the NBA, having worked for Western Conference rivals San Antonio and Houston before coming to Utah.
Anyone working for the Spurs, Rockets or Jazz has no doubt felt a rivalry with the Lakers.
“I think I said hello few times,” Lindsey said. “(Some) good friends of mine worked for Mr. Buss over several different regimes. I have a great deal of respect for the legacy that he’s created with the Lakers and the foundation they’ve built.”
Buss grew up in Wyoming during the Great Depression but eventually became a self-made millionaire. He earned an undergraduate degree in science from Wyoming, then obtained a doctorate in chemistry from USC.
He began dabbling in real estate in the late 1950s and by 1979 had enough money to buy the Lakers, the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., as well as NHL’s L.A. Kings.
Those days at the “Fabulous Forum” have long since passed and now the Lakers and Clippers share Staples Center, where tonight’s game will be played.
Once an afterthought in L.A., the Clippers are currently the city’s best NBA franchise. They’ve already beaten the Lakers three times this season, with one more game next month.
The Clippers also have beaten the Jazz three times this season, with each victory coming in December. In those three games, L.A. power forward Blake Griffin has averaged 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Jazz center Al Jefferson is averaging 22.7 points and 8.7 rebounds vs. the Clippers this season.