Every year, a player is drafted that has a legitimate chance of being the best player in their entire franchise’s history. This year was that guy. After a 59-point explosion in Game 4, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Duke product Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick, and he has changed the course of the franchise in a single year.
Here’s a bit of a depressing one for you: last month, Jeanie Buss, the president of the Los Angeles Lakers, went on Twitter to express her frustration with the Lakers fanbase in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death. She then went on to tout the importance of the fans and the players being able to bond together off the court, and then she made a declaration: she was against a jersey retirement for Kobe, and she wanted his number retired posthumously. On the surface, it seemed completely out of character for Jeanie Buss to act this way.
It has been almost a year since longtime Lakers all-star Kobe Bryant collapsed on the floor and died on a hospital gurney in his home in Los Angeles. Since his death, it has been a rollercoaster ride for the Lakers as they try to move on.. Read more about lakers owner and let us know what you think.
Jeanie Buss is one of sports’ most influential women, as the owner of one of the country’s most renowned and beautiful teams. She has tales about Kobe Bryant, which is unsurprising. Two of these, concerning meals with Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, provide insight into both Buss and one of the NBA’s all-time greats.
Jeanie Buss and Kobe Bryant evolved into their positions.
When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Kobe Bryant’s NBA rights from the Charlotte Hornets, he was 17 years old. | Andrew Lipovsky/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Bryant made his NBA debut with the Lakers when he was 18 years old, in 1996. But he didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season. That season, he scored 19.9 points per game, and his season averages never fell below 22.5 until an injury sidelined him to six games in 2013-14.
Bryant scored 33,643 points in the regular season and additional 5,640 points in 220 playoff games by the time he retired.
Buss was born in 1961 and was completing her degree at USC when her father, Dr. Jerry Buss, appointed her as the general manager of his World TeamTennis club two decades later. She then became the president of the Great Western Forum and managed their roller hockey franchise. That was her first taste of the Lakers’ inner workings.
While her brother handled the basketball side of the club, Buss took over as executive vice president of business operations for the Lakers. She became LA’s team president and the Lakers’ representative at NBA Board of Governors meetings when Jerry Buss died in 2013, leaving his six children with equal ownership of the Lakers.
Since then, she has been in control of all areas of the company.
Buss was Bryant’s first lunch date as a Laker.
On Oct. 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Jeanie Buss talks after the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA championship series victory against the Miami Heat at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex. | Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann
Bryant never played for a club other than the Lakers in the NBA, but it’s easy for fans to forget that they weren’t the ones who selected him.
Bryant returned to eastern Pennsylvania to become a high school phenom after spending half of his youth in Italy while his father played basketball abroad. When it became clear that Bryant would become pro after graduation, most Division I coaches lost up on him early in his senior year.
Bryant was chosen with the 13th overall selection in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Jerry West is credited with orchestrating the deal that brought Bryant to LA in return for Vlade Divac two weeks later.
Bryant was 17 at the time, and his arrival in Los Angeles was notable but not earth-shattering since the Lakers, although competitive, were in transition, and no one coming right out of high school could take them from contenders to champions.
The Lakers’ offices were virtually vacant the day of Bryant’s debut press conference, according to a New York Times profile of Buss. Buss, 34 and still in a supporting position, decided to take Bryant out to lunch, where they discovered common ground. Bryant grew up in Italy, and Buss spent time there with her ex-husband. Bryant asking a server if he knew Spanish and then declaring to Buss that he would learn the language was one of her recollections of lunch, she told the publication.
Bryant said that he wants his daughter Gianna to meet a powerful woman.
After the 2015-16 NBA season, Bryant announced his retirement, and rival teams paid tribute to the future Hall of Famer in a number of ways during his last appearances in their venues. According to the New York Times, he entrusted Buss with many of the choices and logistics.
Buss remembered the Lakers icon inviting her out to lunch one day during that season and surprise her by bringing her daughter Gianna, who was 9 or 10 at the time. Bryant told Buss he wanted his daughter to meet a prominent female sports executive, according to Buss. The player, she thinks, just wanted Buss to know how important she was to him.
“It’s almost like I have to lock him up again,” she added, her voice breaking as she told the newspaper about the encounter. “He’s walking inside the Hall, and it’s as if we’re abandoning him. It’s difficult. It’s difficult to go through this all over again.
“I suppose you simply can’t seem to shake it.”
Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in January 2020, yet the Lakers nonetheless made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. It all came to a head with their first NBA Championship since 2010, which also happened to be Bryant’s fifth and last triumph.
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