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The Story Behind The Buss Family

Los Angeles- Dr. Jerry Buss’s professional success and his reputation as a playboy have been well documented over the years, yet little is known about the Buss family. The latest installment of BEYOND THE GLORY goes beyond the glitz and glamour of the Lakers’ owner and takes an in-depth look at the personal lives and struggles of one of sports’ most well-known and successful families. The show debuted on Sunday, March 28 at 9:00 PM on FSN.

Jerry Buss grew up in a small Wyoming coal-mining town. He never knew his real father and his strained relationship with his stepfather prompted him to move out of his house at 16 years old. Buss had numerous odd jobs and eventually enrolled in the University of Wyoming, seeing education as his ticket out of the state.

After moving to Los Angeles with his wife Joanne, Buss began investing in real estate and saw his wealth grow as quickly as his family. His oldest son Johnny was born followed by Jimmy, Jeanie and Janie. His family was his most prized possession, but long work hours prevented him from spending time with his wife and children and his marriage deteriorated.

Buss used his new wealth to invest in a World Tennis team, the Los Angeles Strings, and although it was a $5 million disaster, sports ownership had whet his appetite. Five years later he purchased the Lakers, Kings and the Forum. The newest NBA owner, along with Magic Johnson, the league’s newest star, turned around the struggling NBA. With his entertainment philosophy, the “Showtime” era was born. The team’s success catapulted Buss into Los Angeles’ elite social scene. While Buss was enjoying his new lifestyle, his children were dealing with personal struggles without their father’s support.

The Buss children were independent and lived most of their lives without the comfort of a close, emotionally available family, even when tragedy struck. Buss’s youngest son, Jimmy, faced the loss of his best friend and later his girlfriend alone. His family shared in his grief, but their support remained unspoken. Johnny Buss endured a failed marriage and an unsuccessful run as president of Los Angeles’ indoor soccer team. Jeanie, Jerry’s oldest daughter and constant shadow divorced her husband, professional volleyball player Steve Timmons. Her business savvy landed her a position as vice president of the Lakers, but her professional success prevented her from having a life outside of work. Jerry’s youngest daughter, Janie, was the most affected by the absence of her father. She went on to marry and have children, but distanced herself from her family.

Jerry’s perfect world came crashing down when Magic Johnson, his surrogate son, announced that he had HIV and would retire from basketball. The Lakers began to struggle and Buss turned to his family to help rejuvenate the franchise. Jeanie continued to serve as vice president of the Lakers, Jimmy was named assistant general manager, Johnny became president of the newly acquired WNBA Sparks and Janie ran the Lakers charitable organizations. With the addition of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson, the Lakers returned to their winning ways and league dominance.

Today the Buss family runs one of the most successful sports operations in the world. However, with Jerry now in his seventies the future of the Buss Empire remains in question. Only time will tell if these five, very different people can coexist to keep the good times rolling.

Those interviewed in addition to Dr. Buss include: sons Jimmy and Johnny Buss, daughters Jeanie and Janie Buss, Magic Johnson, former Lakers coach Pat Riley and coach Phil Jackson.

Jerry Buss:On his family’s future with the Lakers: “I think most people feel that the Lakers and our family are melded together in a way that can’t be undone.”

On purchasing the Lakers and the Kings: “I wanted to celebrate and enjoy it. That took the form of going out, putting a chair in the middle of the basketball floor (at the Forum), lighting a cigarette, having a cocktail and just looking around and thinking, ‘This is the life. I’ve really accomplished everything I ever hoped to do.'”

“People come up to me all the time and say ‘thank you, you’ve given this city the best entertainment for 20 years that we’ve ever had.”

On daughter Jeanie’s relationship with Phil Jackson: “I think that the appreciation that older men have for younger ladies contributes to the health of the relationship.”

Pat Riley:”I don’t think Jerry was lucky or fortunate. I think he was smarter than everyone else.”

Magic Johnson:On his relationship with Jerry Buss: “We hit it off like he had known me my whole life and I had known him his whole life. I went everywhere with him and we had a ball.”

On Jerry’s reaction to Johnson being HIV positive: “He loves me and I love him. When I made the announcement, it hurt him like I was his real son. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.”

On the changes Jerry made to the Lakers: “He brought in the Laker Girls, he made it a show and entertainment. He made it hip and chic to be at a Laker game.”

Jeanie Buss:On her father: “Men I know want to be him, and women I know want to date him.”

“I was always fascinated with my dad’s business. When I had opportunities, I would sit in on meetings. They wouldn’t really pay attention to me, but I was soaking everything in.”

On her father’s reaction to Magic Johnson’s HIV: “I’ve only seen my dad cry a few times in my life, and to see tears in his eyes was painful.”

Johnny Buss:On his father asking him to end his auto-racing career: “That was difficult. I did not want to quit, but my father’s word is so much more powerful than my own desire to do something against his will.”

Jimmy Buss:On his family’s response to the death of his best friend: “Our family was more of a business family, and the touchy-feely closeness wasn’t there. I didn’t know it wasn’t there until I experienced this tragedy.”

Janie Buss:On her childhood relationship with her father: “I missed my dad when I was little, there’s no question about that. I forgive him for it. I know what he had to do, but he still missed a lot of important times in my life. So I want to make sure I’m there for my kids.”

 

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