On Monday, the sports world lost one of its most iconic figures–Lakers owner Jerry Buss. In addition to owning the Lakers during their heyday, winning 10 NBA titles and mentoring stars such as Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, Buss was also a renowned businessman, real estate investor and chemist. Buss’ beginnings couldn’t be more different than his lavish endings; born during the Great Depression, Buss and his single mother stood in bread lines and scavenged the land for phone books and other things to burn to keep warm in desolate Wyoming. Three decades later, he made his first million through a real estate investment, and by the time he reached the age of 46, he was worth an estimated $350 million for a real estate empire that spanned California, Nevada and Arizona. Dang.
In 1979, Buss bought the Los Angeles Lakers for $16 million as part of one of the most lucrative deals in sports history. For $67.5 million, Buss acquired the Lakers, the Kings, The Forum, and a 13,000-acre Raljon Ranch in the Sierra Nevada mountains from Jack Kent Cooke. That same year, Buss and the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson as part of Buss’ vision of dominating the NBA. Magic said their relationship went beyond that of player and owner, with Jerry taking him under his wing to teach him about the business side of the game and allowing him to purchase part of the Lakers franchise, which Magic calls his “second greatest moment,” behind winning his NBA Championships. Monday afternoon, Magic tweeted about Buss’ passing: “I will always remember Dr. Buss’ big smile, his love for the Lakers, for poker & billiards, for the City of LA and for beautiful women.”
Beautiful women, indeed. Jerry loved him some ladies, specifically Playboy Playmates. Buss was also a notorious poker player, participating in the World Series of Poker off and on throughout the past two decades and appearing on NBC’s “Poker After Dark” series. His larger than life persona and shrewd business skills helped him build the Lakers brand into what it is today. Unfortunately, due to health problems, Buss was unable to attend a game during the 2012-2013 season and early Monday morning, he lost his battle with cancer.
Here’s to you, Jerry. I bet you’ve got quite a party waiting for you up there.
— After rehashing every miserable second of it the past few days, it’s time to “burn the tape” from the Tennessee game. From start to end, the game highlighted the worst parts of the team in the wake of Nerlens Noel’s injury, and leaves the Cats with a lot of work left to do to make the Tournament. Calipari attempted to rally the troops during the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference Monday morning, telling reporters that losing Nerlens didn’t just have an impact on the Cats’ roster–it also took an emotional toll on the players. CBS’ Ian Eagle echoed those thoughts on the radio show with Matt, recalling how the players had a deer in the headlights look and seemed “overwhelmed by the moment.” Regardless, Cal encouraged his players to take responsibility for their poor performance and succumb to “how we have to play.”
— That starts with figuring out what’s going on at point guard. Cal said that over the next few days, he will evaluate the guard play and come up with a solution. That may mean starting Jarrod again, going back to Ryan, or even shifting Archie over…it all depends on how the guys respond in practice. Speaking of, how would you like to be a fly on the wall of that practice, during which Julius Mays said he was going to hold players using Nerlens’ injury as an excuse accountable for their actions. It really is “put up” or “shut up” time, and if that means we have to play a roster of Jarrod Polson, Brian Long, Tod Lanter, Sam Malone and Julius Mays, I’m fine with it.
— Kentucky can get their season back on track starting Wednesday against Vanderbilt. On paper, it doesn’t seem like an overwhelming matchup, but when you take into account the Cats’ current state and the fact that they relied heavily on Nerlens Noel to hold off Vandy in Nashville, prospects don’t look quite so promising. Sure, Vandy has only won two of their last seven games, but the only certain thing about this Kentucky team right now is uncertainty. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings says that even without Nerlens Noel, he expects the Cats to be “raring to go” on Wednesday night, and that Saturday’s loss to Tennessee was more of a case of “bad timing” than anything. I hope he’s right. (This taco’s on me, Kev.)
— If there were ever a bad time for ESPN GameDay to come to Kentucky, this weekend might be it. However, we can’t exactly tell them to turn their vans around, right? As of Sunday afternoon, 13,000 GameDay tickets had been distributed, a record for the season but a far cry from Kentucky’s crowd of 22,000 three years ago. Morale is low, but one thing that never will be is pride. Not to be redundant, but Saturday’s game against Missouri is a MUST-WIN if the Cats want to make the Tournament, and nothing will help them more than
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller your support. As Kentucky fans, we’ve never been faint of heart, so I encourage you to attend the tapings if you’re able, if only to heckle Digger. Disappointing team aside, it really is a fun experience.
— Predictably, the Cats fell out of the AP Top 25 this week, but in the Coaches’ Poll, they actually still received one vote. Who was it?? (Look at the bottom of the page for the list of coaches on this year’s board.)
— Remember that awful free throw from the Appalachian State/Western Carolina game in December? Well, this lady just topped it:
Normally, I would refrain from hating on my own gender, but come on girl. Dame Maggie Smith could do better than that, all the while throwing some good side eye shade. That’s just sad.
— Lost in the shuffle of the weekend was Julius Randle’s return to the court. Randle played for the first time since suffering a foot injury in November on Friday, scoring 19 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. That should be a pretty good start to convincing the McDonald’s All-American Committee to declare him fit to compete in the game in April. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to read too much into his mother’s comments to USA Today’s Jason Jordan about their recent trip to Kansas: “Kansas fans were the best. They’re the loudest & the best.”
But did they have the best red velvet cake? I think not…
— Who’s ready for spring football?? Rivals’ Ben Jones combed through the roster and discovered that there are 11 new walk-ons and 3 walk-ons no longer on the team. Spring cleaning?
— Things are looking up for former Cat Larry Warford, whom the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock projects to be the third best offensive guard heading into the draft. Warford impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl back in January and will carry that momentum into this weekend’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. UK hasn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 1993. Keep making us proud, Larry.
— It was a great day for other UK sports, starting with a big 70-66 win for UK Hoops over #10 Texas A&M. A’dia Mathies led the way with 13 points, all in the second half, followed by Kastine Evans and Denisha Stallworth with 12 points a piece. Stallworth also had 12 rebounds and channeled her inner Nerlens Noel by setting a UK school record with 7 blocks. The ladies improved to 23-3 overall and 11-2 in the SEC, just one game behind Tennessee. They’ll return to action Sunday at LSU at 3 p.m.
— Further congrats to the Bat Cats for a thrilling 11-10 victory over USC Upstate Monday afternoon. An eighth-inning comeback led the Cats to their third straight win to open the season. Maybe I’ll learn to love baseball again.
— Finally, in the wake of yet another bungle by the NCAA in the Miami investigation, will Mark Emmert finally step down as President? CBS’ Dennis Dodd says the oversight should cost Emmert his job, something which I think everyone here can agree on.
That’s all for now. We’ll be back before you know it to get you ready for another exciting day of Kentucky sports.