The Winning Legacy of World Champions

The Lakers popularity evolved naturally over the course of Buss’ reign; it certainly wasn’t his goal from the beginning. “When I took over the Lakers, it was a much smaller mom-and-pop type of organization,” he recalls. “I did think we would have success on the court but I didn’t think it would enrapture the entire city of Los Angeles, which it has done.”

That enrapture can, of course, be attributed to the team’s success. The very first year Buss was the owner, fans were treated to a dramatic playoff round that, to this day, Jeanie, who has had courtside seats to every milestone the team conquered over the past three decades, says is her favorite team memory. “In 1980, the Lakers made it to the finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured in Game 6, and we all just thought it was over. But Magic Johnson stepped up and said, ‘I can play center.’ So Magic started at center and single-handedly won the championship for the Lakers.” Her father reflects her sentiment, saying that of all the players on his roster over the seasons, Magic stands out. “Magic will always take a very special place in my heart because we started together,” he says. “We were both a little fearful to get on a national stage and compete, but as it turns out we won the championship.”

Jeanie differs from her father in one way; while Buss personally shies away from media, rarely granting feature interviews or doing photo shoots (he even missed the 2009 championship parade to play poker), Jeanie is all about being center stage. First, there was her notorious spread in Playboy in 1995 (which her father said at the time was “the only issue of the magazine I’ll never read”). Today, she has embraced social media to spread the team’s message. She has close to 30,000 followers on Twitter (@JeanieBuss), where her profile photo was once a shot of her draped over a desk wearing little more than a smile and two basketballs covering her bare breasts. Her tweets offer an insider-perspective of life at the Lakers, which is enhanced by the fact that she is dating Head Coach Phil Jackson, who is notoriously press-shy. “In our business, there’s so much need for information—true information,” she explains. “There’s need for transparency, and a lot of times, your message doesn’t get out the way you want it to because you’re going through a third party. So by being involved in having our own way to communicate with our fans without a middleman allows our message to be heard the way we want it to be heard.” Fans can’t get enough, which led to the launch of Jeanie’s Journal, a video blog featured on the Lakers’ website, where Jeanie often posts impromptu interviews with Jackson from their home and even in the car on the way to a game at the Staples Center. It’s all-access insight into the lives of the sport’s most dominant power couple.