Among all the teams in major U.S. pro sports leagues, only a small number are owned by women. And of that small group, only one can now boast that she owned a team when it won a championship: Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
LeBron and Jeanie Buss.
The King delivered the championship for Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/Wfpo6fIaSA
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) October 12, 2020
Buss inherited the team from her father, Dr. Jerry Buss, who purchased the Lakers in 1979–but did not take full control of the operation for several years. When he died in 2013, he distributed his 66 percent of the team to his six children in six equal shares. Jeanie Buss took the title of team governor and president, but basketball operations were overseen by her brother Jim Buss. The family members and other stakeholders struggled for power amongst one another–and the team struggled on the court.
The legal fight ended in March 2017, with Jeanie Buss coming out as controlling owner and taking a seat on the team’s board of directors. Jim Buss relinquished his position as co-trustee of the team–replaced by younger sister Janie–and was replaced as president of basketball operations by Magic Johnson.
“The message is clear here: Do not underestimate Jeanie Buss,” her lawyer, Adam Streisand, told the Los Angeles Times when the settlement was reached. “Now with the Lakers having the ability to focus on the basketball court and not on the legal court, I think all Laker fans can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Upon asserting her status as the team’s ultimate controller, Buss turned her attention to making adjustments that would set the team up for success. Rob Pelinka, the new general manager she was said to have “hand-picked,” brought in new head coach Frank Vogel. The hiring of LeBon James cemented that the team had entered a new era.
In a 2018 article profiling members of the small club of female owners in professional sports, Grand Stand Central wrote, that Buss “flexed when she need to in order to end years of family drama, and quickly righted the Lakers ship after years of bumbling and futility.”
Three other NBA teams are principally owned by women: the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs also hold the distinction of being the first NBA team to bring on a female coach, adding Becky Hammon as assistant coach in 2014. Now nearly a third of NBA teams have at least one woman on their coaching staff.