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Desanctifying Jerry Buss

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February 20, 2013|By Paul Thornton
  • A Lakers fan signs a memorial board to Jerry Buss at L.A. Live. Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, passed away on Monday at the age of 80.
A Lakers fan signs a memorial board to Jerry Buss at L.A. Live. Buss, owner… (Los Angeles Times )

It would be hard to overstate Jerry Buss' impact on the Lakers empire. The 30-year-plus owner of the NBA franchise, who died Monday at age 80, oversaw an era in which the team averaged a championship almost once every three years and injected some purple and gold into L.A.'s Dodger blue blood. Not surprisingly, The Times' print edition on Tuesday was filled with articles on Buss, both on the front page and in the Sports section. The coverage online has also been exhaustive.

But for some readers, The Times' coverage was overkill. Although most of what's been sent to letters@latimes.com has been what one would expect in reaction to the passing of a local legend -- expressing condolences and acknowledging Buss' role in building the modern Lakers image, much like the letter published in Wednesday's paper -- a handful of readers said Buss' death didn't deserve such a big chunk of print space in multiple sections. Others were less impressed by Buss' stewardship of late; here are two of those letters.

In a lengthy submission, Rancho Mirage resident Les Gapay, a former journalist who has contributed to The Times' Op-Ed page, expressed his misgivings with The Times' coverage:

PHOTOS: Jerry Buss through the years

"The Times on Tuesday had a full seven pages of coverage of the death of Lakers' owner Jerry Buss, including half the front page and all of the cover of the sports section. He's just a sports team owner, for crying out loud.

"The articles were full of adjectives like beloved, humble, great, fearless and generous, words that many journalists know should rarely be used in news stories. The whole thing was like one big advertisement. Clippers owner Donald Sterling couldn't have written better ads about himself, which at least are obviously paid advertisements.

"If Buss wanted to leave a really great legacy based more on just past championships, he would have not allowed his son Jim Buss to hire coach Mike D'Antoni and instead installed Phil Jackson. Then the Lakers might not be in this embarrassing mess this season. If daughter Jeanie Buss now takes over running the whole company, as Magic Johnson has suggested, then maybe there is still hope for the Lakers."

"Otherwise, the city will slowly change its allegiance to the unhumble Sterling's Clippers."

Warren Evan Larson of Sunland gripes about high ticket and cable prices:

"We're being told about how 'great' Buss was. There are only two things that should be remembered about all the major sports franchise owners:

"First, they have made it difficult for all but the wealthy to attend their events. And second, the sports establishment has managed to have all cable and satellite TV viewers pay for channels that only fans want to see. The Lakers just did this with Time Warner Cable."

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