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Kemmerer native and LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss dies at 80

Wyoming native and owner of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team Jerry Buss has died.

Gerald Buss grew up in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Buss was raised by his mother Jessie, a waitress. As a boy, Buss waited in food lines during the great depression.

Determined not to become a coal miner, Buss worked hard in school and earned a scholarship to the University of Wyoming. He graduated from UW in two-and-a-half years with a B.S. in Chemistry, and went on to receive a doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the University of Southern California. After that, he preferred to be called “Doctor Buss.”

Buss earned his initial fortune by investing in real estate and bought the L.A. Lakers in 1979. He pushed to make the team’s games more entertaining, establishing a fast-paced style of play, and hiring dancers for home games. The Lakers won five NBA championships during the Showtime era of the 1980s.

Buss kept in contact with UW. UW Arts and Science's Dean Oliver Walter says in the 1990s, Buss created an endowment in honor of two of his former professors – Sara Jane Rhoads and Rebecca Raulins – who were two of the first female professors in the chemistry department. The endowment continues to bring world-class chemists to speak at UW.

“It’s a way for us to advertise our chemistry department. Because, given that we’re here in Wyoming – not exactly on the beaten path – it gives us a chance to showcase what we do here at the University,” Walter says. 

In 2005, the University of Wyoming awarded Buss with an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Buss died today of kidney failure. He was 80 years old.

Buss is survived by his six children.

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