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Losing. In more ways than one.

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NBA Jerry Buss passes

I was initially going to write today’s piece on sporting legends. Some of them have been in the news recently; those you truly appreciate, eg Michael Jordan, or because of the sport they’re involved in, you know of them, but never quite gravitate towards their greatness, admiring it from afar … think Black Caviar.

However, LA Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss passed away overnight, leaving a gaping hole in the NBA landscape and a Russian meteor sized crevasse in the heart and soul of a team I truly love.

Coinciding with James Hird’s role or complete negligence in his lack of a role in the Bombers’ drugs debacle, the figurehead of the other team I love may also be on his way out.

Losing people who define your team is jarring and there is a great fear in the future. So the legends can wait for now, as we need a little back story.

NBA Jerry Buss

Doctor Jerry Buss

Jerry Buss was the first party boy owner that the NBA knew. Earning a PhD in Physical Chemistry (of all things!) as a young man, $1,000 in an apartment building complex took him on the road to wealth. Within 20 years, he was a multimillionaire and in 1979, for $67.5 million, bought the LA Lakers basketball team, LA Kings ice hockey team and The Forum, the arena in which they played…

The Lakers alone are valued at over $1 billion right now. Not bad for a grand to start with!

Buss was truly LA. He loved to party, have fun, drink, play poker … you name it. And the beauty of it was that the Lakers team reflected the owner’s character. It also didn’t hurt one bit that in his first season as owner, he happened to draft the greatest point guard of all time – Magic Johnson – who also happens to be the one Laker to have given me his autograph – in your face Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The ‘Showtime’ era was born, with the team playing at a breathtaking pace, behind their rookie phenom.

Magic, circa 1979

Magic, circa 1979

Yet there was substance to their style. In the very first season with Magic and Buss, the Lakers went all the way to the championship. Not just the Finals, but the actual title, which was clinched without our bald, old, grumpy, goggles wearing centre, with Magic ‘chipping in’ with a meagre 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists, while playing at centre instead of the point.

A legend was born … well, two, really.

Buss surrounded himself with the right people throughout his tenure. Jerry West, whose silhouette is the actual logo of the NBA, ran the team as general manager. He did so with grace and character. In a feeble world, both were as highly respected as any back office workers in team sports.

Yep, that'd be West's outline...

Yep, that’d be West’s outline…

It didn’t hurt one bit that the city of Los Angeles had factors working for it that other franchises could not compete with – the weather, women, parties, celebrities, the beach, Hollywood connections…

Players wanted to play in LA, for Buss and West, with Magic. And the stars came in their droves; Shaq, Kobe, and more recently, Dwight Howard.

A bad break-up, but 3 titles ain't bad!

A bad break-up, but 3 titles ain’t bad!

These unique factors took LA to ten titles during Buss’ tenure. Ten! The most winningest franchise since he took over. Sorry, I’m starting to sound like a Hawthorn supporter. The Celtics still have us overall … just!

But all great leaders have weaknesses.

Buss’ legacy will be his.

Over to Mongolia

At the moment, I’m reading a phenomenal series of books on Genghis Khan, ‘The Great Conqueror’, by Conn Iggulden. (* Spoiler alert on this series for the next three paragraphs, which I cannot highly recommend more highly…)

Genghis, a phenomenal warrior, united the Mongol tribes and took them north into the Chin territory, and west into the Arab world.

Read these!

Read these!

Yet his father’s negligence in not clearly marking out his successor, erupted into violence in his tribe and his family at his father’s murder, with his tribe abandoning him and Genghis and his brother Kachiun killing their older brother, Bekter, who was not sharing food while the family starved to death.

Yet the same neglect that afflicted him as a boy reared its ugly head in Genghis’ parenting, with a saddening divide between his eldest son, Jochi and his less deserving yet favoured younger brother, Chagatai.

Ok, I’m moving away from Mongolian warriors, as I’m slightly addicted … can you tell!?

Jim Buss. "Errrr...."

Jim Buss. “Errrr….”

My point is that Buss’ legacy is in the hands of a young, clueless playboy son when it should be solely in the hands of his more discerning daughter, Jeannie. Check out the young buck accepting the trophy after our 2009 triumph. The words ‘astute’ and ‘graceful’ don’t really spring to mind now, do they?! I’m surprised David Stern didn’t have a sniper take him out there and then. He can do this, you know…

Jim’s sins involve an inability to draft or trade to help out in the Lakers’ weak spots – perimeter defense, outside shooting and athleticism. Um, remember, the whole beach, parties, Hollywood connections pitch?!! If you search on Youtube under Jim Buss, two of the first four options after Jim Buss are ‘is a loser’ and ‘is an idiot’. And you can’t really argue with the internet, now, can you?!

We don't know, Dwight. YOU figure it out!

We don’t know, Dwight. YOU figure it out!

Oh yeah, he also refused to hire the most successful coach in the history of the league, someone who could manage the talents and egos of Kobe, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, as shown in his eleven coaching titles! Young boy Buss instead hired a similarly clueless offensive minded ham and egger who has never even won a Conference Finals.

In a related story, we’re not even going to reach the playoffs this season, not making the top 8 in the West…

Yes I’m bitter.

But that’s how Buss will be remembered. As a great owner, but, unless there’s a remarkable turnaround (and you never know in the city of angels), as someone who was unable to cement his legacy in those who inherited the harvests of his flawless basketball instincts, character and personality.

Oh dear...

Oh dear…

Essendon

At Bomberland, it’s a less indicting issue that threatens to undermine James Hird’s standing, but certainly a more negligent one. Greed and an obsession with winning can do amazing things to people, even good ones. For Hird to have turned a blind eye or been unaware of the extent to which Essendon was doing ‘whatever it takes’ with regards to peptides and injections is inexcusable. His job is understandably on the line.

Hirdy was the consummate professional at the club. His demeanour, calm character yet exquisite skills as a player and presumed leadership skills as a coach held us in good stead for the foreseeable future. Now we don’t know if that future even involves season 2013.

Pride

I was proud to be associated with the Lakers under a revered figure. As his son took over and the missteps became commonplace, that affection lessened.

I always thought James Hird stood for everything that was good about the game. Clearly he does not. Maybe he’ll survive, maybe he won’t. The care factor is considerably lower than two seasons ago, no. 5’s first at the helm.

Rest well, Dr Buss...

Rest well, Dr Buss…

Sometimes when people move on from your chosen team, they take away with them more than just a set of skills or a way of thinking or communicating. Their leadership, standing and success had them morph into something bigger than the team, bigger than the players, or the game, even.

It’s a different form of losing, one that can set your eyes firmly back on people in your life, you know, those people who personally inspire you and that you actually interact with.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

4 responses »

  1. The modern world of sport is now more business than sport. For those, probably like Hird, where the sport is more important, the business side is most likely a stressful distraction.

    I don’t envy people like Hird at all. The stress of it all must be extreme, especially with the media attention and scrutiny. I really wonder whether its all worth while for these individuals.

    As for Buss…..never heard of him.

    Reply
    • True, the pressure would be enormous. As for Buss, nope, you may not have heard of him, but you wouldn’t have heard of all the other names at Lakerland if it wasn’t for him…

      Reply
  2. 2013 will be the year that is remembered for the change in Sporting Landscapes.. First, Cycling, then AFL, now Track and Field not to mention Australian Olympic Swimming! (Nicole Stevenson says to lay off the Gen Y Generation!)

    I can’t even begin to think what must be going through Hird’s head right now… I can’ t think he would be that naive to NOT know what has been going on in his beloved club. (In saying that I can’t begin to think what was going through Wayne Carey’s head around that start of the 2002 AFL Season!)

    It is a shame to see sport tarnished by such ‘scandals’ and the politics that goes along with them (A. Demetriou would be better off fronting a Press Conference in Kuwait telling that amassed Press that Tanking was not an issue with tanks rolling through the streets in the background).

    I am struggling to see what this year will hold now and really I feel disillusioned and lost for words… Much like Buss Jnr…

    Reply
    • Yes Willo, a sorry state of affairs right now. I now we love a good sports ‘story’, but I think we can take the talking marks off ‘scandal’ on these ones. We have legit issues and ours seems to be getting deeper today already, with further insights into Hird’s dicey relationships with certain figures. I can’t think how you must have felt a the start of ’02… Loved your tanks in Kuwait with Demetriou denying tanking analogy … yep his head’s that far up ….

      But let’s be honest, there’s absolutely no chance you’ll ever be as lost for words as little Jimmy Buss =>

      Reply

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