Memorial Service Honors Longtime Lakers Owner Dr. Jerry Buss

"He loved Los Angeles, and as we can see, Los Angeles loved him, too."

A memorial service was held Thursday afternoon to honor Dr. Jerry Buss, the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Buss died Monday at the age of 80.

The private service started about 3:15 p.m. at the Nokia Theatre, across the street from Staples Center, the team's home since the 1999-2000 season.

"He loved Los Angeles, and as we can see, Los Angeles loved him, too," his son Johnny Buss told the crowd.

"If you spent time with this man, you didn't want it to end," Johnny Buss said.

"It was really hard to pull away from this guy. If you were a reporter, you wanted five more minutes. If you played poker with him, you wanted to stay just one more hand. If you were a friend, you just wanted to hang out for another hour or so.

"But you know, if you were his child, you wanted 80 more years," he said.


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Randy Newman performed "You've Got a Friend in Me," USC's marching band Spirit of Troy performed "Amazing Grace," and Davis Gaines performed "Music of the Night."

Other speakers at the service included NBA Commissioner David Stern, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, Pat Riley, Kobe Bryant, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Jim Hill.

"When I announced HIV, I knew he was really a father figure in my life," Johnson said.

"As we cried for hours -- him not knowing if I would be here 22 years later, thinking he would lose a son, an adopted son -- and he picked up the phone and started calling hospitals to make sure that I had the best health care possible, the best doctors.

"He would call me all the time: 'Are you OK? You taking your meds? You doing what you're supposed to do?' That's when I knew this man loved me and cared about me, outside of winning championships, outside of making no-look passes," Johnson said.

"That's who Jerry Buss was," Johnson said.

The private service was by invitation only, but that didn't stop many fans from gathering outside.

"He took his vision and made it come to life, and changed the NBA as we know it," said one Lakers fan.

On Wednesday evening, Bryant led the crowd at Staples Center in a moment of silence. The house lights dimmed and a spotlight illuminated Jerry Buss' seat in the owner's box.

"We are all, all spoiled by his vision and by his drive to win year after year after year, and through our years, being here at Staples Center, the one thing that we could always count on was the great Dr. Jerry Buss overlooking his franchise from his box."

The Lakers went on to beat the Boston Celtics 113 to 99.

Since purchasing the team in 1979, Jerry Buss oversaw 10 NBA championships and 16 finals appearances. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Jerry Buss graduated the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor's degree in chemistry. He later earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Southern California.

He is remembered as a lover of all sports, and a man who worked tirelessly for the things he cared about. Many speakers at Thursday's memorial service spoke of Jerry Buss' drive to wake up early and go to bed late.

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