Bryant, Kupchak endorse Buss heirs

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EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. (AP) - Kobe Bryant and general manager Mitch Kupchak endorsed the children of the late Jerry Buss as worthy heirs to running the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant said Tuesday that the six siblings are “following the greatest owner in sports,” but he believes that in their own way the Buss offspring will have success.

“It’s tough to follow in those shoes,” he said before the Lakers‘ first practice since the All-Star break. “It’s important to take the lessons he’s taught and try to carry it on to the future.”

The elder Buss died Monday at age 80 of kidney failure as a complication of the cancer that he had struggled with for the last 18 months. A memorial service for invited guests only will be held Thursday at Nokia Theatre across from Staples Center.

“We have a great opportunity to carry on his legacy,” said Kupchak, who first joined the Lakers as a player in 1981 and became the team’s assistant GM under Jerry West after his playing days ended in 1986.

Some of the lessons Bryant said he learned from Buss were “to be patient, not rush decisions. When you believe in something you act despite what public opinion would be. He always stuck to his guns and made sound decisions on what was right for the team.”

Now those decisions will be made by Buss‘ children: the four oldest _ Jim, Jeanie, Johnny and Janie Drexel that he had with wife JoAnn _ and the two youngest _ Jesse and Joey that he had with an ex-girlfriend.

“Everybody seems to work well together, but don’t think for one minute there isn’t an adjustment period,” Kupchak said. “We’ve always had one voice and we’ll see. I don’t anticipate a problem.”

It was Jerry Buss‘ wish that his children run the team after his death. The family owns a majority stake in the franchise, with AEG chairman Philip Anschutz, doctor Patrick Soon-Shion and real estate magnate Ed Roski holding minority shares.

The family ownership stake will now be held in a trust. The team cannot be sold off in smaller pieces, only in its two-thirds entirety, according to longtime Buss family spokesman Bob Steiner.

“The entity cannot be split,” Steiner said Monday.

Jeanie will take over as the team’s governor, which gives her the power to voice the Lakers‘ vote on issues at owners’ meetings. She has been the team’s alternate governor for several years but now takes over for her late father.

“Nobody understands what this franchise means to the city of Los Angeles better than Jeanie and Jimmy,” said Kupchak, adding that he feels he “grew up” with the four oldest Buss children _ who range in age from their late 40s to mid-50s.

In recent years, Jim Buss has been working with Kupchak making the team’s basketball decisions while Jeanie Buss has handled the club’s business dealings. Kupchak said Jim Buss is his boss.

“He’s very strong in his opinions yet if I feel strongly, he’ll defer, which is what his dad did,” Kupchak said.

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