Gallery: Los Angeles Lakers Dr. Jerry Buss Memorial At Nokia Theatre
A different version of Showtime broke out in honor of the man that first constructed it.
Current and former Lakers dazzled the crowd at Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles Thursday about stories regarding the late owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday from kidney failure after spending the past 18 months fighting an unspecified form of cancer.
"Just being around him and just feeling the warmth in him, he was genuine," said former Lakers player and executive Jerry West.
That's why it was only fitting that Magic Johnson asked the estimated 50 current and former Lakers and coaches in attendance to stand up near the end of the ceremony. Johnson then asked to entire 3,000 in attendance to hold up their thumb and index fingers in a "L" shape to demonstrate their affection for the Lakers.
"This is a celebration of life," Johnson proclaimed. "This is a celebration of success. We shouldn't be sad. We should be happy that the man enjoyed his life and did it his way."
Buss, 80, bought the Lakers in 1979, when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL's Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67.5 million from Jack Kent Cooke. He oversaw 10 of the Lakers' 16 titles. Buss became the first Lakers owner to get an NBA Finals victory over heated rival Boston Celtics, going 3-2 under his watch. Forbes recently estimated the Lakers at $1 billion partly in thanks to a lucrative 20-year deal with Time Warner Cable.
"When I think of Jerry, I like to think of him at his beloved poker table," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "I think of him sitting there with the world's best poker players, standing back and suddenly pushing his chips into the middle.
Such a mind-set ensured the Lakers had plenty of stars, including Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that Jerry was nothing less than a transformational force in the history of sports," NBA Commissioner Stern said. "Creating the value proposition through pricing, naming rights, cable TV networks, TV rights and entertainment all of which underlie all stadium and arena construction in the United States and around the world."
Buss' influence appeared pretty obvious.
His memorial brought out plenty of former Lakers (Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, O'Neal), current Lakers (Bryant, Pau Gasol), former coaches (Pat Riley, Phil Jackson) and former executives (West).
The entertainment aspect also played a huge part in the memorial.
All the speeches mixed with musical performances. They included Randy Newman ("You've Got a Friend in Me"), Davis Gaines ("Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera) and the USC band ("Amazing Grace")
The ceremony went beyond representing an extensive guest list. It was filled with stories.
"On the surface it seemed that everything went right for this man, and in a way it did, but not without strenuous work hours, passion, diligence," said Buss' son Johnny. "Not everything went right but because he was always thinking ahead, everything became right. His honesty, integrity, insight - coupled with kindness, humility and a gentle disposition. He truly had the right stuff."
Buss' other five children didn't speak, but each of them wrote a message in the program.
"You did it your way and I'm so proud of you," wrote Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, following a stanza from Frank Sinatra's "My Way" underneath a photo of him and his father singing together.
"When questions and doubts creep into my mind, I will draw from your wisdom for you were my professor, my ally, my captain," wrote Lakers VP of business operations, Jeanie Buss.
Jeanie's fiance, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, recalled Buss' wisdom playing a large part in persuading Bryant to back away from his trade demands in 2007.
"During one of those meetings, Dr. Buss said, `Kobe, if I had a diamond of great value, four or five carats, would I give up that diamond for four diamonds of one carat?" Jackson recalled. "No. There's no equal value for you. A trade would not net what you bring to this team."
Meanwhile, Bryant credited Buss for convincing him it was fine to hire Jackson in 2005, a year after the coach wrote in a book that Bryant was "uncoachable." Bryant also derived Buss' presence as a rallying cry for the current Lakers (26-29) as they try to climb back into playoff contention.
"I encourage all of you - me included - to look around the room and look at the greatness of one man's vision. The players that are here, the coaches that are here, we all have one thing in common and it's that we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss. For us to look around this room and understand that we're playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season, we are playing for the memory of a great man, Dr. Jerry Buss."
Buss is no longer with the Lakers to provide his guidance. But Riley believes he's currently providing that elsewhere.
"To be absent of the body is to be present with God," Riley said. "I have been notified by him and he is OK."