When the Los Angeles Lakers take the court on Wednesday night to play their longtime rivals, the Boston Celtics, in their first game after the death of Dr. Jerry Buss, they'll do so wearing special jersey patches honoring the late legendary owner.
The two-inch-tall circular patch, which the team revealed Tuesday, features Buss' initials in gold with white trim, set against a purple backdrop and surrounding by a black border. It will appear on the right side of the player's jerseys, above the Lakers logo. Above-the-title billing seems perfectly appropriate for the influential leader and 2010 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee who presided over 10 NBA championships and 16 NBA Finals appearances in a 34-year tenure. The team will also have a special pregame ceremony honoring Buss at 7:30 p.m. PST before taking on the Celtics tonight.
[Slideshow: Lakers and fans pay tribute to Jerry Buss]
"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 Buss family said in a statement. "[...] 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."
On Tuesday, Lakers star Kobe Bryant reflected on his relationship with Buss — which reportedly included a near-trade to the Detroit Pistons that made Bryant realize he wanted to be a Laker for life — and the chance that Buss' passing could serve as a galvanizing force for a Lakers team that has struggled mightily this season.
"I hope so," Bryant said. "A lot of the guys here never had a chance to meet him and didn’t really know him. Some of us were too young to understand the impact and significance he had. Now it’s a chance to get somewhat of a history lesson and understand what this franchise is, what it really means, where it comes from and hopefully we can carry that on."
A memorial service honoring Buss will be held Thursday at 3 p.m. PST at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Speakers at the service — which is closed to the public, but will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and KTLA — will include Bryant. Dr. Buss' son Johnny, his longtime business partner Frank Mariani, NBA Commissioner David Stern and a slew of Lakers greats, including Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol (who will apparently speak only in Spanish), Pat Riley and Magic Johnson, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
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