DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban long ago picked out the Los Angeles Lakers as a personal rival, as a "foil.” But all along he looked to Lakers owner Jerry Buss as a mentor and on Monday offered an impromptu eulogy for Buss, who passed away on Feb. 18, 2013 at the age of 80.
"I don’t think there was a smarter owner in the history of the NBA than Jerry Buss,” Cuban said before his Mavs tipped off at the AAC against the Celtics. "So I don’t think there’s any question he’s by far the best owner in the history of the NBA. No exception.”
Buss, whose reign of the Lakers began in 1979, was an innovator in recognizing ways to make the game a "show,” and Cuban borrowed many of those philosophies when he bought the Mavs in 2000.
"He understood fans, entertainment, players, how to balance all of it together, how to deal with the NBA, when to listen to (ex-NBA commissioner) David (Stern) and when to ignore him and when to tell him what to do,” Cuban said. "He had that breadth of skills that every time I spoke to him — usually I’m used to doing to the talking, just force of habit — but he’s one of the few people that when we sat down I did all the listening.
"When we were turning things around that first couple of years he was like, ‘You’re doing it right, don’t listen to the naysayers, just keep on doing what you’re doing,’he said, ‘Everything that I did that I’m most proud of, somebody was mad at me for it and called the commissioner, so stick to your guns.’
"So I owe him a lot.”
Cuban still views the Lakers as a rival and on Monday wondered aloud if that traditionally regal franchise will ever be the same now that Buss’ family is running it without him.
"Jerry Buss was the Lakers, so I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” Cuban said."I don’t think people realize just how good of an owner Jerry was. I looked up to him a lot. Absolutely. So I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers.”