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Category: Jerry Buss

Why Jerry West wanted to share his struggle with depression [Video]

Jerry West is one of the most beloved figures in Lakers history.

A prolific scorer who embodied the ethos of hard work, his silhouette became the NBA's logo.

A general manager who built two of the league's most celebrated dynasties, a replica of his body became immortalized in bronze outside of Staples Center.

He has experienced immense success --- but has struggled deeply with enjoying its fruits.

"The high opinion others may have of Jerry West, whoever they may think he is, has never been shared by me," West wrote in his autobiography, "West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life."

At a book-signing at ESPN Zone in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday evening, West discussed his lifelong struggles with depression and why he decided to reveal them to the public.

"I've led a very complex life and I just thought after all of these years of trying to mask some of my problems, that it would be important to people out there -- and I've gotten a lot of cards, a lot of letters, a lot of telephone calls from some pretty prominent people thanking me for writing this book," West said.

"I had hoped it would be kind of cleansing for me to go back in time and think about some of the things that I've seen in my life that were less than desirable -- but probably propelled me to have some kind of a life I didn't dream possible."

In the book, West described his household in West Virginia as cold and lacking in affection. His father was abusive and his older brother, David, whom he loved dearly, died in the Korean War at age 22.

"David's death, I see now, truly resulted in the basketball court's becoming my sanctuary and my refuge, the place where I felt most alive, where I was most in control," West wrote.

Throughout West's illustrious career, he grappled with residual resentment from his childhood and a sometimes detrimental drive for perfection.

Even though he led the Lakers to a championship in 1972 he has never been able to get over the team's losses to the Boston Celtics and, to this day, has a hard time visiting the city.

West is a kind man who never thought he was above anyone -- for example, as an executive he forged friendships with the people who did menial labor in his office. But his overflowing humility worked against him at times.

When he won the Finals MVP award in 1969, he was upset. He didn't think he deserved it.

In the book, Magic Johnson said he was glad that West was writing an autobiography because he hoped that it would prove to be a form of therapy for him.

When asked if the writing process was indeed cathartic, West said, "Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

"I think reliving some of the things I saw in my life, talking about some of them, have not been therapeutic, but some other times I'm glad I did it."


A review of "West by West"

Greatest sports figures in L.A. history: Jerry West

Jerry West on autobiography: "It was painful to write"

-- Melissa Rohlin

Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Plaschke and Simers discuss their recent issues with the Lakers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West are purple and gold lore, they are legends whose impact on the game continues to have profound reverberations today.

Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. The league's logo is West's silhouette. Despite their accomplishments, both men have felt like they haven't received their due respect from the Lakers organization after their playing days have ended.

Abdul-Jabbar gripes that he hasn't been immortalized with a bronze statue outside of Staples Center. West feels as though Coach Phil Jackson never truly appreciated him.

In their video series, L.A. Now, moderated by Times sports reporter Melissa Rohlin, Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers discuss the Lakers legends and what their legacy will be. Here are some highlights.

On Jerry West:

Both columnists said they think Jerry West is a bit "strange." Plaschke recounted how the former Lakers general manager left the gym during Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers to go see a movie.

"Jerry accomplished a lot in his life, but he also did it with some devils in him," Simers said.

Plaschke called him "one of the most fascinating characters ever in L.A. sports." He discussed how even though West helped build the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal dynasty, he felt overshadowed by Jackson.

 On Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

Simers rembembers seeing Pat Riley approach Abdul-Jabbar at an All-Star game in an attempt to introduce him to his friends. The six-time NBA MVP refused to spend any time with them.

"Kareem Abdul-Jabbar feels alienated by everybody and it's basically his own responsibility," Simers said.

Plaschke said Abdul-Jabbar has made himself an unlikable figure in the eyes of Lakers fans.

"James Worthy, Rick Fox get more cheers," Plaschke said.


Plaschke-Simers video: Should Kobe Bryant play overseas?

Plaschke-Simers video: Are the Chargers the best NFL team for L.A.?

Plaschke-Simers video: Should Clayton Kershaw win the Cy Young award?

--Melissa Rohlin

Greatest sports figures in L.A. history, No. 16: Jerry Buss


Continuing our countdown of the 20 greatest figures in L.A. sports history with No. 16, Jerry Buss.

No. 16 Jerry Buss (no first-place votes, 723 points).

Amid the pageantry of the Lakers' ring ceremony for their 2010 championship, Kobe Bryant wanted to make sure one man received the proper credit.

"None of this would have been possible," the superstar guard told the Staples Center crowd, "without the greatest owner in the history of team sports … Mr. Jerry Buss."

Certainly, no owner in team sports has been more successful.

Since Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, they have won 10 championships and been to the NBA Finals 16 times. Only twice in that span have they missed the playoffs.

While building the Lakers into one of the premier franchises in sports, he's done so with a certain flair.

"Right after I bought the team, I used to go into this little lounge in Santa Monica," Buss said in an interview with Times columnist Bill Plaschke in 2008. "The owner was also the musical director for MGM and they used to perform musicals there late at night, it was fantastic. Just before they would start, everyone would start shouting, 'Showtime! Showtime!' I remember thinking, this is how I wanted people to feel about their team."

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Ted Green: There's still a doctor in the house

Buss Years ago, more than I care to remember or admit, I was introduced to this soft-spoken man in his mid-40s who seemed quite odd in that he was both modest and Mitty-esque in his grandiose thinking.

He owned the L.A. Strings at the time, which was a tennis team in a fledgling minor league called World Team Tennis. The Strings were a back-page item, definitely not of philharmonic quality.

After we both did our due diligence on his new tennis endeavor, Dr. Jerry Buss paused to make sure he had my full attention.

"I'm going to own the Lakers one day," he told me, and I thought: Yeah, and I'm going to be the first man on Mars.

Just a few years later, he bought the Lakers. And within months, Magic Johnson had come to town. Now, after nine NBA titles and 15 appearances in the NBA Finals in a 30-year ownership run that should/must land him in the Basketball Hall of Fame, Jerry Buss is still full of surprises. And not a man you should ever underestimate.

The man with a PhD in chemistry from USC and a penchant for dating women who are so age inappropriate that other men get jealous played a high-stakes game of contract chicken with Lamar Odom and Lamar's peeps ... and darn it if the good doctor didn't win again.

Yeah, Lamar blinked first. Kenny Rogers would be proud. Odom knew when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

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Bleacher Report: Losing Lamar won't hurt the Lakers

Odom From the Bleacher Report:

All the pundits and fans are wringing out their crying towels. Oh, what a tragedy if the Lakers lose Lamar Odom. What a terrible deal it amounts to! Odom and Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest.

"It’s just not worth it," they cry. You lose two and get only one in return. But that one player that you get is worth the other two. Why? Because he WANTS to be a Laker. And he doesn’t care about the money.

The other two just wanted their egos stroked. Show me how important I am to this team by putting out some extra loot.

Well, I’m glad Jerry Buss showed Ariza and Odom how important they were. He let Ariza go without a second thought and brought in Artest. He also pulled the offer to Odom, who showed his appreciation by actually considering offers from other teams worth far less money.

Buss proved once again that no one is going to hold him hostage even if he has to break up the team. He did it back in 2004 and he will do it again if he has to. And good for him.

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Ted Green: Lakers need to put up the money

Odom I'm no Alan Greenspan when it comes to finance, but let's start with a very basic premise, no advanced degree required:

The Lakers and the luxury tax seem about as comfortable together in the same sentence as Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

I bring it up because the Lakers seem to be playing the luxury tax card as they talk vaguely about what they can and cannot afford to pay their free-agent forward, Lamar Odom.

The versatile Odom made about $14 million in 2009. Now there are hints about offering him the mid-level exception of $5-plus million, something like a 60% pay cut.

You want to cut somebody? Ask Andrew Bynum to give some of that 52 mil back.

Now, it's not my place to spend Jerry Buss' money. If he wants to blow some of it on poker, 21 being a great number for both blackjack and girlfriends, that's his business. But riddle me this:

If the Cleveland Cavaliers can pay THEIR power forward, the klunky Anderson Varejao, $50 million and he's about a quarter as good as Lamar Odom, are the Lakers telling us they can't pay a talent like Odom $8 to $10 million?

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Lakers the biggest, best show in town

Lakers Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon no doubt will raise some eyebrows in Boston when he pronounces that the Lakers are the world's most important basketball franchise.

That's sort of the inference we got from NBA Commissioner David Stern a few years ago when asked which teams he would like to see play in the Finals. The Lakers versus the Lakers, he said.

As Wilbon points out, it's difficult for the Celtics to claim the title, despite all the championships they've won, because they're not even the most popular sports team in their city. That would be the Red Sox, by far.

"The most famous names of all here are Laker names: Wilt, West and Baylor," Wilbon writes.

"Kareem and Magic, Shaq and Kobe, Buss and Jackson. The Lakers aren't the only show in town -- but they're the biggest, the best and the most important."

"That's because the Lakers, arguably, are the most important basketball franchise in the world. Yes, the Celtics have won more league championships, 17 to the Lakers' 14. But of the 60 NBA Finals in league history, the Lakers have played in 29. And it's likely that seven of the top 50 players in the history of the game are Lakers.

"It is, simply, the greatest show in American sports, barely interrupted for the past 50 years.''

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: Fans celebrate as the Lakers defeat the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center on Sunday. Credit: Jeff Golden / Getty Images

Los Angeles owners a mixed bag in Sports Illustrated's Best & Worst list

Lakers owner Jerry Buss getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of fame in 2006. It stressed that this list was by no means scientific, but Sports Illustrated cited numerous factors when putting together its Best and Worst Owners list in the four major professional sports, the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. SI says the factors included the owners' willingness to spend money to improve the team, stability in the front office and management, amenities at the team's venue, how the team interacts with its fan base and one more important factor -- the team's overall success. Boil those five factors together and you'll see some of our L.A. owners on that list.

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He thinks the Lakers are crying poor

A confession up front: I don't know any more about the Lakers' actual finances than you do. Which is to say, nothing at all.

But when I read stories in relation to, say, whether the Lakers should or will re-sign an emerging and valuable asset like Trevor Ariza, and the Lakers use having to pay the luxury tax as a potential excuse in case they need it, I don't know whether to laugh or lose my lunch.

Jerry Buss got a star on the Walk of Fame in 2006. See, I was there in '78 when Jerry Buss bought the whole shooting match from Jack Kent Cooke -- that's the Lakers, hockey Kings and the Fabulous Forum (the building in Inglewood, and here a picture of both the man and the building (here's a photo) for $38 million, chump change by today's standards. The Steal of the Century.

Today, even in this last-place economy, Forbes estimates the Lakers are worth about $600 million. If Hollywood's team ever went up for sale on the open market, I bet they'd fetch more.

So, if Jerry Buss bought the team for $38 mil, AND it's now worth $600 mil, AND the team is currently profitable, AND the other Laker owner, Philip Anschutz, is said to be worth $8 billion (yes, the "B" word) ... someone please explain, why in the name of Jack Benny would the Lakers ever, and I mean ever, use the luxury tax as an excuse, much less cry about it in the papers?

Luxury tax? For the Lakers?

Luxury tax for a team whose sushi roll at Staples Center costs the same as a four-door KIA with leather seats?

In the big financial Laker picture, the luxury tax for Ariza is comparative pennies.

Did George Steinbrenner ever once choose the cheapskate route for the Yankees, baseball's gold standard?

So why would the Lakers' front office ever cry poor, especially when Buss has Daddy Warbucks Anschutz as a partner?

I'm not trying to fritter away John, Jim and Jeanie's family fortune, nor am I telling the Lakers how to spend it. That said, I'm pretty sure the words "Lakers" and "luxury tax" should never be used in the same sentence.

You are the Lakers, not the Atlanta Hawks.

You have enough money to buy LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Yao Ming as your third-string center.

Luxury tax and the Lakers?

Reminds me of other famous oxymorons, like Iraq and Mission Accomplished.

-- Ted Green

Ted Green was the L.A. Times beat writer when Jerry Buss bought the Lakers. He is currently Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.

Inset photo: Jerry Buss got a star on the Walk of Fame in 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times
Pop-up photo: Jack Kent Cooke at the 1966 groundbreaking for the Forum. Credit: AP

Knicks worth more than the Lakers, Forbes says


Why is this man smiling?

List-happy Forbes magazine came out with its latest tally today, and according to its calculations the New York Knicks are the most valuable franchise in the NBA and are worth $613 million. And Jerry Buss' Lakers are No. 2 on the list at $584 million.

The rest of the top 10 valuations: Chicago Bulls ($504 million), Detroit Pistons ($480 million), Cleveland Cavaliers ($477 million), Houston Rockets ($469 million), Dallas Mavericks ($466 million), Phoenix Suns ($452 million), Boston Celtics ($447 million) and San Antonio Spurs ($415 million).

The magazine also says that the Bulls enjoyed the biggest operating profit in the last year at $55.4 million, with the Lakers again being the runner-up with an operating profit of $47.9 million (on $191 million in revenues).

Forbes claims all top 10 NBA teams are profitable, with one exception -- Mark Cuban's Mavericks posted an operating loss of $13.6 million.

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, is all smiles after being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles in October 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times.

Jerry Buss entertains the media

Buss_300Unlike last year, when Lakers owner Jerry Buss (pictured at left) sat with the media during training camp in Hawaii and the attention was on whether the Lakers would trade Kobe Bryant, Buss smiled more and was upbeat when he talked to the media Sunday.

Buss, 75, talked about the future with Bryant, his children, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and how good this team is.

Bryant is making $21.2 million this year, but can terminate the last two years of his deal worth $47.8 million this summer and sign a maximum extension of five years and $135 million.

Buss said the team wasn’t ready to address that issue.

"But we can’t afford to lose Kobe," Buss said.

Another option for Bryant might be going to Europe. There was a rumor that Olympiakos, a team in Greece, would be willing to make Bryant an offer this summer.

"I can’t see it, but there are people who are wealthy enough in the world that could make astronomical offers and I certainly couldn’t compete with that," Buss said. "But, quite honestly, I don’t think that’s a real threat."

Kupchak acquired Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza and drafted Andrew Bynum. It seems as if Kupchak has done a very good job for the Lakers.

"I’ve always been pleased with everything that Mitch has done," Buss said. "It may seem as if there are ups and downs, but our relationship has never been up and down. It’s been totally steady."

Jeanie Buss, the team’s vice president of business operations who dates Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, and Jim Buss, the team’s vice president of player personnel, are Jerry’s two kids with big roles in the organization.

Jerry said he has been comfortable with them.

"At this point, I’m just really, really pleased with their performances," Jerry Buss said.

The Lakers are considered the favorites to win the NBA championship this year. There has been talk about them winning 70 games. The Chicago Bulls own the all-time mark with a 72-10 record.

Buss said he sees the Lakers winning 60 games.

"I’d be happy with 73, though," Buss said, smiling.

-- Broderick Turner


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