Basketball didn't exist for me until a big kid nicknamed "Roy Roy" introduced me to the game by force after he had told me that the only way I was going to get my '69 Dodge Charger Matchbox that he had just snatched from me was to sink 2 free-throws. I was about 6 at that time and never held a basketball before. But I was a very competitive boy who thought this kid didn't know who he was dealing with.
So I walked to the line and didn't hesitate to chuck up my first shot. The ball probably traveled no more than 4 feet up in the air before it died and fell right into the waiting hands of Roy Roy standing well in front of the rim.
I did my best not to cry on my way home. Instead, I was determined to be the greatest shooter in the world...as soon as I can find myself a basketball.
Two weeks later, a friend of mine gave me his old, worn-out Spalding. A month later, I was already shooting above the key. Another month after that, I was working on my defense. I got good in basketball to a point that the bigger kids that come to the same community playground were offering me snacks just to get me on their team. Naturally, this led to new friends and eventually an invite to watch Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals between the Lakers and 76ers on TV.
I was told that the player at center was actually a point guard playing for the injured Kareem (as they called him). I remember thinking, wow, this guy wants to win the championship so badly that he was willing to play out of his position to do it. I was hooked and the rest is history.
So how does this exactly relate to Dr. Jerry Buss?
Growing up, I had very little bonding time with my father. He was always out working trying to support his family. But one thing I learned from him was this: no matter what you do, never, ever forget where you came from. And since I got my father's interest in history, I began researching the Lakers and found out that they won that championship under their new owner's first season. That research then turned into finding more about Dr. Buss.
I've been reading whatever article or book about Dr. Buss since that time and learned what we all know about him — his vision, competitive nature and his brilliance as an owner. But the one chord that really struck me about him is he never forgot about his roots. Buss made billions and quickly became one of the biggest icons in sports history. As an owner of a sports franchise, that is quite a remarkable accomplishment. However, none of that erased his humble personality or changed the way he treated people.
I never really understood what my dad had taught me as a kid until Dr. Jerry Buss. To me, Buss is a walking embodiment of what we, as human beings, are capable of and could strive to become.
And the very reason why I've been a proud Laker fan all these years.