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“They came in and put a loaded gun on the table” — Jeanie Buss opens up about the clash with Jim Buss over control of the Los Angeles Lakers

Jim Buss' explanation for the gun is, well, interesting to say the least.
Los Angeles Lakers Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss

Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss

When Dr. Jerry Buss passed away in 2013, he left the Los Angeles Lakers to his children and assigned them to continue his legacy. At that time, Jeanie Buss was appointed to run the business side of the team, while Jim Buss handled the operations department as the team's executive vice president.

But as the years went on, the Buss family failed to follow their dad's wish to ensure the team was always winning and competing for championships because of one bad team decision after another.

It reached a point where the Lakers were going through their toughest losing years in franchise history, and it was no coincidence that it happened when Jerry Buss passed away. The Buss family drama peaked when they started firing each other out of the organization and fought to claim the controlling owner position.

Jeanie vs. Jim

The family feud was really just between Jeanie and Jim Buss, who always clashed even before their father passed away. The Lakers weren't winning, largely because Jim made one questionable decision after another, which forced Jeanie to take action against Jim.

When the Buss siblings gathered one summer, they made Jim promise that the team would return to the Playoffs in no time.

"I said, 'If we're not back in the Playoffs then you know I might make a choice and he said 'Oh absolutely.' He said 'If we're not back in the Playoffs in three years then I'll walk away, I'll fire myself.' So we shook hands with the witnesses being my siblings," Jeanie revealed in episode 9 of Legacy: The True Story of the Los Angeles Lakers documentary.

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Unfortunately, Jim's promise to bring the Lakers back to the Playoffs in 3 years didn't come to fruition, which motivated Jeanie to make the necessary changes in the organization. After hiring Magic Johnson as the team's consultant and hearing Kobe Bryant's advice, Jeanie decided to fire Jim because she was tired of watching the Lakers lose and felt the team needed a new executive vice president.

The real battle of succession

Months before Jim's 3-year timeline concluded, Jeanie decided to fire her brother because she felt he would jeopardize the team in the last few months of his tenure. He knew he wouldn't live up to his promise, so Jeanie feared Jim would make decisions and trades that would undermine the franchise. Jim and his siblings were taken aback by Jeanie's decision, and it reached a point where they questioned why the latter had the power to do such a thing.

"My dad made it clear to me that I was going to be the governor. But I think he kept it to himself in terms of the family because he may have been talked out of it or there may have been objections and he didn't want to have to deal with that," Jeanie said. "Looking back at some of the decisions Jimmy made, was he making those decisions to undermine the organization and my authority to run the team? Or was he just making poor decisions?" Jeanie added.

So when Jeanie took over the team after firing her brother, the Buss brothers gathered to discuss their father's succession plan. Did Jerry Buss really want Jeanie to take over the team? What did his will say? If Jeanie was going to be the controlling owner of the Lakers, she needed to be a director and be involved with the organization's board of leaders.

Jeanie admitted that there were authorities involved during her meetings with her siblings, and it reached a point where she needed to implement a restraining order to make sure her brothers wouldn't elect a new board of directors that didn't include her.

"My brother Jimmy got involved with some attorneys. I wouldn't say it was a hostile meeting that we had, but they basically came in and put a loaded gun on the table," Jeanie revealed.

"Just to make sure there was check and balance, that's all it was," Jim Buss said, pertaining to the loaded gun he brought to the meeting. "We involved attorneys so we can understand what the trust says. According to our attorneys, they said the best thing to do is to put some other people on the board," Jim added.

Ultimately, the case settled down, and Jeanie eventually became the controlling owner of the Lakers, which she said was what her father really wanted and wrote in his will.

The feud between the Buss siblings was dramatic and chaotic, but at the very least, Jeanie fulfilled Jerry Buss' wish of making sure the Lakers were back on top of the NBA — that's why the 2020 NBA champion wasn't only dedicated to the late great Kobe Bryant but also dr. Jerry Buss. 

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