Before the Los Angeles Lakers could move on with the second half of the season following the All-Star break, they were left looking back at the life of legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss on Tuesday.
"To me personally, he obviously believed in me from Day 1, being a 17-year old kid to where I am now," Kobe Bryant said before practice, reflecting on Buss who died Monday at the age of 80. "His competitive spirit, his vision of what this organization should be and how it should go beyond basketball, the global outreach that he had in his mind, we talked quite a bit about that. We talked about the old times and he's obviously had a profound impact on my career to say the least."
The Lakers announced a private memorial service will be held for Buss on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT at Nokia Theatre. The service will not be open to the public; however it will be aired live on the team's television station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Countless fans have already flocked to show their support for the longtime Lakers owner who presided over 10 championships in his 34 years at the helm by leaving flowers and mementos by the Lakers statues in front of Staples Center. At L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, well-wishers have been writing messages on a giant white banner that features a picture of Buss in the middle of it.
"Yesterday was an empty day," said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who also expressed his gratitude for Buss bringing him to Los Angeles as a player 32 years ago and keeping him within the organization all this time. "I couldn't seem to find a place where I was comfortable -- a room, a place, a car, a house. A major loss, personally, for obvious reasons."
While recognizing that Buss is gone, the Lakers were left acknowledging his children that still remain with the team -- particularly vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss and vice president of business operations, Jeanie Buss -- and the challenge they have to take up the torch from their father.
"I'm very confident," Bryant said when asked if he believed Buss' family could carry on his tradition of excellence. "You're following the greatest owner in sports. To try to match that or equal that, it's nearly an impossible task. But, I think in their own way they'll have success, for sure."
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