My father, Dr. Jerry Buss, holds the honor of being the most successful owner in the history of professional sports. Not only evidenced by his 10 NBA Championships but also from his sports marketing successes such as creating a regional sports network, establishing the first-ever NBA dance squad, “The Laker Girls,” and, of course, designing the VIP row featuring the “Jack Nicholson” seats. This is an opportunity to share the top three lessons I most value from my father while growing up in the world of professional sports.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
My father purchased the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Kings, and the arena they played in, the Forum, in May of 1979. I was only 17 years old. His first order of business as the new Lakers’ owner was to select the #1 pick in the draft. Some suggested to him that he choose a solid four-year college standout from UCLA, David Greenwood, but my father had his eye on a sophomore who had petitioned to turn pro two years early and had dazzled in the NCAA tournament, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the first underclassman ever to be drafted with the #1 pick.
The first time I met Magic was shortly after the draft. He flew to Los Angeles to meet my father. I was there to answer the doorbell. I opened the door and here was a kid only two years older than me with a smile that could rival the sun and light up an entire city.
I showed him to the living room, and we chatted for a few moments. He told me matter-of-factly that he appreciated being drafted by the Lakers but that he was only going to stay for three years because he wanted to go home to Michigan and play for his hometown team – the Detroit Pistons.
I did my best to hide my reaction and excused myself to go upstairs and inform my father that his guest had arrived. When I was out of Magic’s sight, I raced up the stairs with panic to tell my dad what our number-one draft pick had just said to me.
My dad didn’t bat an eye. He told me, “Jeanie, don’t worry. He may say that today, but the first time he puts on a Lakers’ uniform and steps out on the Forum floor, he is never going to leave.”
He was right. Magic has never left Los Angeles, and I don’t think you could find a better ambassador for the city. He is the face of the LA Dodgers’ franchise and continues to be a force in the community. Everything he has ever set out to do he has done.
My dad had a feeling about Magic and he trusted himself to take a gamble that paid off big and forever changed the course of Lakers’ history.
PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF (EVEN IF EVERYONE LAUGHS AT YOUR PLAN)
When you own an arena like the Forum, the goal is to keep it busy. Between the hockey team and the basketball team, you have about 100 or so nights per year booked. However, that means you have 250 dark nights that need to be filled.
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