Jeanie Buss inherited ownership of the LA Lakers Franchise when her father, the great Jerry Buss, passed away. Recently, Buss recounted an incident when Kobe Bryant used her as an example of powerful, female leadership with his daughter Gianna. He used Buss as a model for his daughter that women could hold as much power in the NBA as men. The meeting in 2013 inspired Jeanie Buss. She claimed that she felt it was Kobe Bryant’s intention – not just to inspire his daughter – but to inspire her as well. She felt he knew exactly how this meeting would make her feel and she draws on it as a source of strength, as she continues to face daily challenges as a high-powered woman in a male-dominated sport.

With Jeanie Buss being such an important icon in the NBA at this time, we should look at her life in a little more detail. Let’s get to know the woman behind our favourite Franchise.

Her story

Born in 1961 in Hollywood, she is the third of six children that Jerry Buss was devoted to. Like her father, she aspired to be a tycoon, whatever that means, and attended the University of Southern California, studying business. Imagine growing up in a household where Magic Johnson is brought home for supper by her father. At the time Johnson told her only intended to spend three years at the Lakers – and Jeanie full of passion for the Franchise immediately informed her father. He assured it wouldn’t be the case and it wasn’t. Jeanie and Johnson became firm friends from this moment on. They grew up together – with Johnson regularly over at the house. Johnson refers to her as his sister.

As an apprenticeship for what was to become, Jerry Buss put his daughter in charge of the LA Strings of World Team Tennis at the age of 19. The team won two league championships under her direction and she gained a reputation as a quality promoter in sports. She then went on to lead a franchise in roller and hockey and indoor soccer. Her father believed that she would learn best if she was thrown in at the deep end. She has also promoted many concerts and other sports events. She was executive vice president of business operations for the LA Lakers – one of only a handful of women to make it to this level in the sport.  In short, she served a high-quality apprenticeship making her uniquely qualified to inherit the family business.

However, she did more in her time before becoming the owner and boss of the Lakers. She also has a colourful past as being someone who dated the bad boy of tennis, John McEnroe and the former coach of the LA Lakers Phil Jackson. Jackson resigned the post in 2004 after a crushing defeat and it was Jeanie who positioned him to return to the job. 

You might also be surprised to hear that Jeanie Buss has also posed for Playboy magazine – showing she has more than a little sass.

Does she have what it takes?

It was often a worry of Jerry Buss – whether his daughter should be involved in the franchise or not. However, Jeanie Buss has proven many times over that she is invested in the family business and maintaining her father’s legacy into the future. It is only because she is a woman, we guess, that anyone doubts she would have what it takes to lead a major NBA Franchise. Yet, the question is often asked and so we will answer it. Without a doubt – the answer is a resounding “yes”.

If you need evidence, let’s explore some history of her controlling ownership of the LA Lakers. First, it was her father’s wish that she be the controlling owner. This is no small testament to her abilities, as Jerry Buss was no fool and not overly sentimental. Recently, Jeanie fired her brother and the general manager who had been in the role for 17 years – she did this on the same day. She immediately installed Magic Johnson as the President of Basketball. All this resulted in a horrific court battle which now confirms that she is the owner for the rest of her life. In short, she has fought some serious battles and won out in fine fashion. 

Although she has faced some setbacks, including Magic Johnson’s crude resignation, the loss of her coach Watkins and the death of her friend and superstar Kobe Bryant, Buss is on the verge of resurrecting the glamour side of the NBA. With the help of stars like LeBron James and his strike partner Anthony Davis, the team is on the verge of a first world championship shot in 5 years. The hiring of Vogel as the coach was certainly an inspired choice on top of this – and it would be difficult to say that Buss could do anymore to deliver success.

However, her time has not been without difficulty. Her 17-year  relationship with Phil Jackson came to an end, succumbing to the strain of living on separate coasts – something that undoubtedly causes her sadness. She is a shy person despite the widely reported beauty contest win and playboy shoot – she just has that capacity to put on a persona when her job calls for it. She is a woman that has responded to her personal ambition to run the family business and succeeded with some aplomb. She doesn’t need to be ballsy and hard to be successful – and this makes her every bit a modern American woman.