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On Thursday afternoon, the NBA world received some bad news. Dr. Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers since 1979, has spent time in intensive care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as he receives treatment for cancer. Although Dr. Buss has taken on fewer responsibilities in recent seasons, he is still the official owner of one of the NBA's marquee franchises and one of the most successful owners in the history of American sports.
News of Buss' condition was first reported by RadarOnline.com:
Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss is dying of cancer and is currently surrounded by family and friends at his hospital bedside, RadarOnline.com is exclusively reporting.
The businessman and billionaire is at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and a source close to the situation tells RadarOnline.com that Lakers players have been calling with well-wishes and even stopping by to see him in what they expect to be his final days.
"Jerry isn't doing well and it's quite sad, but he's surrounded by loved ones," the insider told RadarOnline.com.
"The cancer is just too much and it looks like this is the end for him."
A partial confirmation came from Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register, who noted that the paper had previously learned of the cancer but withheld the story out of respect to the Buss family. An hour later, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times filed his own report:
Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been hospitalized because of an undisclosed form of cancer, spending time in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to multiple team personnel.
A Lakers spokesman declined to comment on his condition.
Several current and former Lakers players have visited Buss, including Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It's important to note that the only item confirmed in all three reports is that Buss has cancer. Beyond that, RadarOnline.com and the Times both say that Buss is currently in the hospital and that Buss has received visitors who rank among the most important players in Lakers history. Only Radar says that Buss is in his final days and in intensive care right now. While that report could very well be true, it's also the only one of these three to claim that Buss looks likely to pass very soon. As we've learned many times over the years, it's often best not to rush to a conclusion about a public figure's death based on one report.
Nevertheless, the continued worsening of Dr. Buss' health is an important story if only because of all he's meant to the NBA for the past 34 years. In that stretch, the Lakers have won 10 championships and regularly been one of the best teams in the league. While players and coaches deserve most of the credit for those accomplishments, Buss has always been a supportive owner willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that his employees succeed. When a general manager wants to add salary to bring in an important player, he frees up the money. He's able to do that in part because the Lakers play in such a lucrative market, but he also knows how to use his money well. Given the difficulties of negotiating salary caps and increased player movement, it's not terribly controversial to say that Buss is the best NBA owner of all time.
If Buss does pass away soon, his death would have an impact on the Lakers' front office, although it's difficult to say exactly what that effect would be. Buss' son Jim has taken over the team's basketball operations, and daughter (and fiancee of legendary coach Phil Jackson) Jeanie now runs the business side of the franchise. However, Kevin Ding recently reported that the siblings now barely speak. Although the family has made it abundantly clear that they have no plans to sell the franchise, it's possible that their patriarch's death would lead to a more substantial power struggle. Then again, maybe it would bring everyone closer.
Of course, that's all speculation for now. In this moment, the news is that a massively important NBA figure is seriously ill. We wish the best to Dr. Buss and everyone close to him.