Longtime Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss died Monday morning after a bout with a long illness, the team announced. He was 80.
Buss had been hospitalized for much of the past 1 1/2 years, the family said in a statement.
"We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community," the statement said. "It was our father's often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy."
In recent years, Buss has relinquished control of the team to son Jim.
Buss bought the Lakers in 1979 and the team won 10 NBA titles under his ownership. He turned them into "Showtime" by building the team around flashy players including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. He hired coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, who had Hall of Fame careers. Celebrities flocked to Lakers games and sat courtside. The now-famous Laker Girls danced during timeouts.
"I really tried to create a Laker image, a distinct identity," Buss said in the Los Angeles Times. "I mean, the Lakers are pretty damn Hollywood."
Riley said in a statement that the sports world "lost a true giant."
"Jerry Buss was more than just an owner. He was one of the great innovators that any sport has ever encountered," Riley said. "He was a true visionary and it was obvious with the Lakers in the 80's that 'Showtime' was more than just Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was really the vision of a man who saw something that connected with a community.
"I was privileged to be part of that for 10 years and even more grateful for the friendship that has lasted all these many years. I have always come to realize that if it weren't for Dr. Buss, I wouldn't be where I am today. I owe my start in professional coaching to him, and I will always hold him and his memory in the highest of regards."
Buss grew up poor during the Great Depression era in Wyoming but eventually became a self-made millionaire.
He got married while working on a science degree at the University of Wyoming and had four children.
The family moved to Southern California in the mid-1950s and Buss got a doctorate degree in chemistry from USC. He worked in the aerospace industry during the late 1950s and dabbled in real estate.
Buss and his real estate partner, Frank Mariani, saw their business grow as they invested in homes, hotels and office buildings. By 1979, Buss and his business associates had enough money to buy the Lakers, the Forum in Inglewood, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch.
The NBA was struggling at the time, but Buss drafted Johnson and paired him with Abdul-Jabbar. Former Lakers great Jerry West was on the rise as a general manager.
Showtime was born.
"Jerry Buss helped set the league on the course it is on today," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in the Times. "Remember, he showed us it was about 'Showtime,' the notion that an arena can become the focal point for not just basketball, but entertainment. He made it the place to see and be seen."
The Lakers won right away. Riley took over as coach after winning the 1980 NBA championship. The team won five titles in the 1980s.
In the 2000s, the Lakers won five more titles, led by Bryant and coached by Jackson. That included three straight championships with O'Neal in 2000-02.
They won two more titles in 2009 and '10 with the addition of Pau Gasol.
Abdul-Jabbar also issued a statement:
"When someone as celebrated and charismatic as Jerry Buss dies, we are reminded of two things. First, just how much one person with vision and strength of will can accomplish. Second, how fragile each of us is, regardless of how powerful we were. Those two things combine to inspire us to reach for the stars, but also to remain with our feet firmly on the ground among our loved ones. Dr. Buss embodied that compassionate entrepreneurial spirit. He strove to reach greater heights without forgetting his community roots. During his stewardship, the Lakers exemplified his personal standards of excellence and became one of the dominant teams in the NBA and a force of good within the community. The man may be gone, but he has made us all better people for knowing him."