When Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss died on Monday, team physician Dr. Steve Lomardo did not just lose his boss. He lost a friend.
The orthopedic surgeon became the team’s doctor five years before Buss bought the Lakers. In an exclusive interview with NBC4 on Wednesday, Lombardo said their friendship was born the day they met 34 years ago.
He even recalled what Buss was wearing the day they met.
"Casual Hawaiian shirt, open neck shirts with a flare to them in a reserved way, [he was] just a delightful guy," Lombardo said.
Over the years, Lombardo said the relationship grew.
"I saw him as a patient, I saw his family and operated on members of his family," he said.
And as their relationship grew, so did the aura of the Lakers under the guidance of Buss.
"When I started taking care of the team, it was just another team. Over the period of time that Dr. Buss owned it, it became LA’s team, it became a global team," Lombardo said.
Lombardo recalled the generosity of the Lakers owner and the spirit of family he instilled in the organization.
"During the finals, he would take every member of a family in the finals to one of the series and he’d pay for their airfare their hotels," Lombardo said.
Lombardo was a lifelong fan of rival Boston Celtics before he started working for the Lakers. But his favorite Jerry Buss moment?
"I think when he was holding up the trophy when we beat the Celtics in ’85 because that was, we sort of exercised the ghost or whatever it was," said Lombardo.