Jerry Buss Rumors
Here’s one for Dr. Jerry Buss. His last call before he passed away was to hire D’Antoni over Jackson, which was wildly unpopular with Laker fans and blamed on his son, Jim, with even Jeanie Buss claiming her brother had done Phil in. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they had multiple bigs in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, making them a better fit for Phil’s offense. With Steve Nash’s injuries and Dwight merely passing through with his skepticism of Bryant, it was a steaming mess, and worse for the following two seasons with Kobe playing only 41 of 164 games. Nevertheless, there’s another term you could use for D’Antoni’s small-ball, floor-spacing, high-powered offense: modern basketball.
Jeanie Buss: Visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame. My dad was humbled by this honor. He loved Los Angeles. #Lakers owner. #DrBuss
According to team and league sources, despite how the torch-passing was presented to media and fans, Jerry did not have deep confidence in Jim as a basketball visionary or even someone with the grit to stay in charge of Lakers personnel for the long haul.
Jerry envisioned youngest sons Joey, 31, and Jesse, 28, having highly prominent roles at some point. Both are cited by team sources as smart and diligent in their current roles. They have a different mother than the four elder siblings—and a very different backstory. Joey and Jesse grew up in San Diego, far removed from their father’s glamorous life, and they acted almost like two shy kids in awe when they got into it.
He used to be close to Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. They’d meet for lunches at California Pizza Kitchen or this Italian restaurant in Marina Del Rey. Before Buss passed away in 2013, he told Kobe he hoped he’d be a Laker for life. I ask what it meant to him that Buss chose him over Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. “Shaq demanded the trade first,” he says. “Right, but he actually traded him. He wouldn’t trade you.” “I look at it from a business perspective,” he says. “I would have made the same call. If you’re going to bet, you got to bet on the horse that you know is obsessive about what they do, day in and day out, and is going to be hell bent on trying to win a championship. If you’re going to bet on a horse, you always bet on the one that eats, sleeps and breathes the craft.”
Things started going wrong when Jerry died in 2013. The team got old. David Stern rejected Kupchak’s 2011 trade for Chris Paul in a classic conflict of interest, acting as New Orleans owner with the league, then operating the franchise as well as serving as NBA commissioner. Dwight Howard came and went in one season. Bryant tore an Achilles tendon in 2013 and was never the same. The last major decision of Jerry Buss was the 2012 hire of coach Mike D’Antoni, passing over Jackson, who by then had left the team and who was the fans’ choice and, of course, Jeanie’s.
D’Antoni, an outsider who gained fame at division rival Phoenix, was scorned by fans who chanted “Phil Jackson” almost from the day he showed up. Jeanie blamed Jim for jilting Jackson, saying in her memoir she felt as if she had been “stabbed in the back.” Everyone else says Jerry Buss, not Jim, made the decision. Given Jerry’s preference for D’Antoni’s open-court style over Jackson’s triangle, Jerry, Jim and Kupchak agreed on D’Antoni. That move turned out to be a colossal disaster, and D’Antoni was fired after two seasons and only 67 wins.