Old pictures of the late Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, silk shirt open to near navel, will doubtless bring to mind Will Ferrell’s Anchorman spoof for a lot of young NBA fans. But Buss was no anachronism. Indeed fans today watch a stylized game that Buss, as much as anyone not wearing sneakers, helped foment. If the NBA could adopt the catchphrase “Showtime” it surely would, but the Lakers laid claim to the moniker 30 years ago and it remains synonymous with the purple-and-gold. Los Angeles will miss Buss not only for his showmanship and charisma, but also for his technical training: before making his fortune Buss earned a doctorate in physical chemistry–an area in which the Lakers have long excelled–and it may take a scientist to fix the current Lakers team chemistry.
Eras are always ending, sometimes before they get a name. But the Lakers–and the rest of basketball–knew they had something special in Los Angeles. The long list of superstars who found themselves on the Lakers payroll over the years tended to do the remarkable: they locked down and played their best basketball. Dr. Buss was a winner who had fun winning, and a professional who respected professionals. Turned out to be the recipe for quite a show.