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Jeanie Buss: Legends, Lessons, and the Lakers

Last Updated: September 29, 2022
In the Season 2 premiere of “Out of Office,” the LA Lakers governor discusses how the professional blends with the personal when you work for the family business.

“Could you imagine if you could go see the Rolling Stones and you could sit in the front row to whatever show could come to the Forum? How would you like that?” Dr. Jerry Buss asked his children one evening in 1979. That’s how he revealed to them that he had purchased the Los Angeles Lakers, the NHL’s Kings, and the Forum itself.

In that moment, his 17-year-old daughter Jeanie’s life changed forever.

Listen to the full episode by clicking here.

That first season brought the Busses their first taste of victory as Jerry, a rookie owner, set his sights on another rookie, drafting Magic Johnson, the point guard out of Michigan State.

Buss recalls the first time she met Johnson, who was only two years her senior, and how he told her that he would give the west coast three years before returning to his hometown Pistons. Panicked, Jeanie relayed the story to her father who assured her that she shouldn’t worry.

“[My dad] knew he would fall in love with LA just as he fell in love with LA,” she said on the Season 2 premiere of Boardroom’s “Out of Office” podcast with Rich Kleiman and Gianni Harrell.

Together, they won a championship in their first year — and Magic stayed until his retirement in 1991.

That trophy marked the first of many for the Buss family. Waving to her Zoom background, Buss quipped with the ultimate flex:

“There are 11 back there, but I can’t get them all in the shot.”

Throughout the conversation, Buss reflected on a number of stories that have shaped her approach to her role as the president of an elite organization.

She reflected on her father, who was an iconic real estate tycoon prior to his leap into the sports world, as her first teacher.

“Even at a young age, he’d say, ‘Oh you’re curious about this? Let me explain it to you,” she said. “He was grooming me to be part of the business when I was 10, 11, 12 years old.”

This set her up to take over as president of the team following his death in 2013.

However, her time with the organization hasn’t been all championship celebrations and ticker-tape parades.

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In the conversation, Buss gets candid about the struggles that she and her family have faced over the last three-plus decades of owning the team.

She gets emotional when reflecting on the first time that she met one-on-one with Kobe Bryant towards the very end of his career as he decided that he was going to retire. Together, they made the plan to roll out the news – no leaks. He wanted to own his own narrative, and entrusted her to make it happen.

From rebuilding eras to family tensions surrounding how to run the team, Buss has had a front-row seat to it all.

While most of those have been professional, she also shared the tribulations she encountered in one of the most important relationships of her life: her partnership with their former head coach, Phil Jackson, that evolved from purely professional to something much more. When the Zen Master joined the Knicks as an executive in 2014, the NBA stepped in and made them agree that they wouldn’t discuss basketball in the confines of their personal relationship — at that time, as Jeanie was getting oriented in her new position and encountering some challenges with her brother Jim’s leadership on the basketball side, the league’s insistence rule marked the beginning of the end of their coupling.

But for this NBA trailblazer, the past and its infinite lessons along the way set the foundation for future. LeBron, AD, Russ, and the new-look Lake Show are the most recent iteration of the process that never ceases to excite.

And while the extent of what they’ll achieve in 2021-22 is yet to be known, Jeanie Buss has already sealed her status as a Laker legend in her own right.

About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.