Lakers Insider: How Jerry Buss Put Donald Sterling in the NBA, and Vice Versa

LOS ANGELES — If you want to look at it from a negative perspective, it would seem that longtime Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss was the reason Donald Sterling got into the basketball business in the first place.

From a positive for Lakers fans, maybe Buss doesn't get into the basketball business without Sterling's help.

When cash-strapped for the last dollars he needed to buy the Lakers, Buss turned to Sterling in the final hours for a real-estate sale and additional funds. Buss later encouraged Sterling to buy a team, too. Here's how it was summed up in Peter Keating's 2009 profile of Sterling for ESPN The Magazine:

In the 1970s, Sterling got to know Jerry Buss, then a chemist who was also an LA real estate investor. In May 1979, Buss was set to buy the Lakers, but 15 hours before the purchase deadline he was still $2.7 million shy of the needed cash. So he called Sterling, who covered part of the shortfall by buying a group of 11 Santa Monica apartment buildings from Buss. Soon after, the San Diego Clippers were on the block, and Buss suggested his pal buy them. And so in 1981, Sterling acquired the franchise for $12.7 million.

Considering the Los Angeles Clippers might fetch $1 billion now, it wasn't so bad to have Buss as a business advisor.

Sterling's real-estate reach is so wide in Los Angeles that multiple current Lakers employees have lived in his apartment buildings. One kidded to me that he was the very first in the NBA to take a righteous stand against Sterling by years ago moving out of Sterling's building as a protest against his racial biases. I said that would be a fantastic story, if true, and he came clean and admitted the only reason he left his rent-controlled spot was for the chance to own property.


Jeanie Buss on Select Committee

Past relationship between Buss and Sterling or not, Buss' daughter Jeanie, president of the Lakers...

About the Author