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Lakers owner Buss' next stop will be to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Byline: Elliott Teaford Staff Writer

Jerry Buss, who transformed the Lakers from perennial also-rans into an NBA juggernaut during his 31 years as the team's majority owner, was among eight individuals and two teams voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.

The enshrinement ceremony will be Aug.13 in Springfield, Mass.

The Lakers have won nine NBA championships and 16 Western Conference titles since Buss purchased the team in June 1979. They won five league titles during the Showtime Era of the 1980s and four more during the 2000s.

"This is an overwhelming honor and one that I never anticipated when I began my ownership of the Lakers 31 years ago," the 77-year-old Buss said. "I truly thank everyone involved for according me the privilege of being a member of such a prestigious body."

Recently, Buss spoke of the team's iconic status in an interview with ESPN.com.

"My dream really was to have the Lakers and Los Angeles as one and the same," he said. "When I was just a fan, I used to really object when I would go to see the Lakers playing New York and most of the crowd would be ex-New Yorkers cheering for the Knicks. Then the next time, it would be the same with some other team. ... When you think New York, you think Yankees. I wanted that to be the case here as well, that when you think L.A., you think Lakers. I believe I've accomplished that."

In fact, the Lakers have come to symbolize something greater than just another successful franchise to their legion of rabid fans in Southern California, according to David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute.

"If you go back to the Forum, there was nothing that spoke more to the emerging Southern California lifestyle than the Forum Club," Carter said. "It grew with the move to Staples Center. The Lakers were a lifestyle brand. People wanted to be identified with it.

"Laker games remain a place to see and to be seen, and Jerry Buss captured the essence of what Southern Californians look for in a product. Whether it's the Laker girls or the iconic players and coaches, the Lakers represent Southern California. ... It's a big part of his legacy."

WNBA standout Cynthia Cooper (USC), high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., NBA superstars Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen along with the 1960 and 1992 United States men's Olympic teams joined Buss in the 2010 enshrinement class.

The group also included NBA players Dennis Johnson (Pepperdine), Gus Johnson and international star Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira, who will each be honored posthumously.

Buss was enshrined under the category of contributor, an apt title for him. He purchased the Lakers, hockey's Kings, the Forum and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County for $67.5 million in June 1979, then the largest sports transaction in history.

Through the years, he sold the Kings and the ranch and moved the Lakers from the outdated Forum in Inglewood to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. He also sold minority interests in the Lakers to Magic Johnson, Philip Anschutz and Edward Roski.

In addition, Buss has turned over as much as 90 percent of the day-to-day basketball operations of the team to his son, Jim. His daughter, Jeanie, has run 100 percent of the business side of the organization for years.

Jeanie Buss wrote Monday on Twitter: "Congratulations Dad - You are officially a Hall of Famer."

Buss rarely makes himself available for interviews, although he grants a sit-down session with beat reporters once a season. He did not make the trip to Orlando for the decisive Game 5 of the NBA Finals last June.

In November, he told reporters of his goal to keep the Lakers playing at the highest level, believing it was possible to catch and pass the rival Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships. The Lakers won their 15th last spring; Boston has won 17.

"Like all gamblers, we feel like we're on a run," he said in November.

Buss ensured the nucleus of the Lakers' most recent championship team would stay intact when he signed Lamar Odom to a new contract last summer and gave Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol extensions through the 2013-14 season earlier this season.

The Lakers' payroll of $91.4 million is the highest in the NBA this season.

"If we win again, I'll look to raise the bar that much more," Jim Buss said in November. "I'm not one who sits pat on a win. You kind of want to improve because that's what all the other teams are doing, which is basically improving to beat you.

"You want to stay one step ahead. That's basically how we run the team, by staying one step ahead of the competition. It's (money) well spent. We don't like that it's that high. ... (Jerry) yells at me every day for the payroll."

The Lakers lead the Western Conference standings and have the league's second- best overall record at 55-22.

elliott.teaford@dailybreeze.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 6, 2010
Words:844
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