As the story goes, the biggest decision Jerry Buss made for the Lakers actually came before he purchased the Lakers. He was in the process of buying the team from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979, the year Magic Johnson led Michigan State over Larry Bird and Indiana State for the NCAA championship.
At the time, the Lakers were leaning toward taking UCLA forward David Greenwood or Arkansas guard Sidney Moncrief with the first pick in the draft, which Los Angeles owned after winning a coin flip with Chicago. The Lakers weren't convinced Johnson would be the right fit and figured Greenwood would be an easier sell in Los Angeles.
Buss threatened to back out of the deal unless they took Johnson, a decision you might say worked out fairly well for the Lakers.
Johnson's personality and flare defined the Lakers during their “Showtime” era. He led them to five NBA titles, was one of the greatest players in history and, along with Bird, helped resuscitate a dying league. Greenwood played for five teams, including San Antonio twice, in a forgettable 12-year career.
“They worried that I was a flash in the pan, a college showpiece with no outside shot who wouldn't survive in the pros,” Johnson wrote in his 1992 autobiography. “They also wondered about my size. At the time, all the experts agreed that a big man couldn't be an effective point guard. … I learned later that the team's decision to draft me was actually made by Dr. Jerry Buss.”
Buss, who died Monday at age 80, will be remembered for his flamboyant style and teams that reflected his personality. He was a frequent guest at the Playboy Mansion and spent years enjoying the nightlife in Southern California, where the chemist turned real-estate developer made the fortune that brought him the Lakers.
The decision to take Johnson was hardly Buss' only great move. Two years later, in a trade with Cleveland, he demanded the two teams swap first-round picks in addition to their exchange of players. It led the Lakers to James Worthy, another key figure on the Lakers' championship teams.
Los Angeles reached the finals 16 times and won 10 titles while Buss was the owner. He purchased the Lakers, the Kings and the famed Forum for $67 million in 1979. The Lakers, which cost him $16 million, are now worth about $1 billion. The Kings, whom he bought for $10 million, are now worth about $525 million.
Many forget that Buss, with the decision to take Johnson, also inadvertently contributed to the Bulls winning six championships. If the Lakers took Greenwood, the Bulls were ready to take Johnson. He likely would have turned the Bulls into a better team. Instead, Greenwood led them to fourth or worse in the division four times in five years.
Chicago ended up with the third pick overall in the 1984 draft. Houston took Hakeem Olajuwan, Portland selected Sam Bowie and the Bulls grabbed Michael Jordan. You might say things worked out fine for Chicago, too.
Odds don't favor Danica
Danica Patrick made history when she became the first woman to win the pole at the Daytona 500, but the smart money would be placed on anybody but her to win the Super Bowl of NASCAR.
It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with probability, statistics and experience. The driver winning the pole has not won Daytona since 2000, when Dale Jarrett turned the trick. The pole winner won the race only twice since 1987.
Patrick has earned the pole position five times in her driving career, all on the Indy circuit, and never finished higher than sixth in any of the races. She has finished in the top five only once in 58 starts in the Nationwide Series. She has competed in only 10 Sprint Cup races, and her best finish was 17th.
Nineteen others drivers had better odds than Patrick of winning the Daytona 500, according to oddshark.com. My pick: Carl Edwards.
Pistorius' story crumbling
Olympian and one-time hero Oscar Pistorius can continue spinning the idea that he feared an intruder was in his house, but he's going to have a difficult time convincing anyone the Valentine's Day slaying of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was anything but murder.
The double-amputee's defense already started crumbling Tuesday when prosecutors began injecting common sense into the case. Pistorius admitted firing shots through a bathroom door because he feared an intruder was inside. Prosecutors pointed out that he first attached his prosthetic legs and walked about 22 feet before shooting.
More facts will emerge as the case moves forward, but his story sounds like it has more holes than his bathroom door. Pistorius will have a difficult time answering a few simple questions, such as: If he feared an intruder, why did he take the time to grab his legs, walk across a room and then start firing?
Did he say anything to the so-called intruder before shooting through the door? Certainly, if he asked a question such as “Who's here?” his girlfriend would have responded with something along the lines of, “It's only me, honey.” Did he look in his bed and see his girlfriend? Did he tell the intruder he had a gun?
Does he usually shoot first and ask questions later when hearing a strange noise?
Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle considered moving his family to Western New York and keeping his dog but instead will keep his family and dog in Florida ... and keep his job in Toronto.
Buehrle has four dogs, including one that's part pit bull.
Pit bulls aren't allowed in Ontario. The pitcher considered moving to the Buffalo area and dealing with the 90-minute commute along Queen Elizabeth Way.
“He's an awesome dog,” Buehrle told reporters at spring training in Dunedin. “That's what's a shame; just the way he looks is why we have to get separated.”
His wife and two young children will stay between their homes in Florida and St. Louis and visit Toronto during the season.
“If people don't own dogs,” Buehrle said, “they're not going to understand you're leaving your family and your kids behind over a dog.”
Roger Clemens, to the Houston Chronicle, after hearing Mike Piazza took karate lessons with the idea he would be prepared to fight if he had another confrontation with former Yankees pitcher: “He'd have to stand in line. I think there was about three guys on the Yankees that wanted a piece of me more.”
11 – Different scorers for both teams when the Avalanche beat the Predators, 6-5, on Monday afternoon.
29.5 – Dollars, in millions, earned in 2012 by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to a review of league's tax return conducted by The Associated Press.
16 – Consecutive games in which the Blackhawks (13-0-3) earned a point to start the season, matching the NHL record. The Anaheim Ducks opened the 2006-07 season with points in a record 16 straight games (12-0-4).
• Brittney Griner became the eighth Division I women's basketball player to score 3,000 career points Monday. She has 12 games remaining if Baylor reaches the NCAA tournament final. If she continues scoring 22 points per game, she would finish her career with 3,264 points, second behind Jackie Stiles of Southwest Missouri State (3,393).
• The Redskins have no plans to change their name despite another round of criticism from people who find it offensive to Native Americans. GM Bruce Allen pointed to 70 high schools that also have kept the name. “There's nothing that we feel is offensive,” Allen said. “And we're proud of our history.” Other teams, such as St. John's (formerly the Redmen), have changed their nicknames. The Washington Bullets became the Wizards because they didn't want their names associated with guns.
• Compulsive whiner Darrelle Revis can complain all he wants about the Jets for not massaging his ego while they considered trading him, but they did nothing wrong. Revis' job is to show up for workouts and be prepared to play games. In exchange, they pay him an exorbitant amount of money. They owe him nothing more.