Richard Shotwell/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss discussed a wide range of topics on the latest episode of Showtime’s All the Smoke released Thursday:
Buss described the emotional loss of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
“The world lost somebody really special,” she said. “… Just him as a friend and as a motivator and watching him as a father and a husband, he was a leader and he’s irreplaceable.”
Late 2019 and early 2020 were difficult for Buss, who lost her mother, Kobe and a mentor in former commissioner David Stern all in a short period of time. She said it affected her mental wellness and she wasn’t sleeping well during that time, especially when combined with the stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The season fortunately ended on a positive note for the Lakers as they were able to win the title behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Buss praised James’ talent on the court but had more to say about his character. It was something he showed over the past year from his leadership on the team to the social justice activism off the court.
“He’s the closest thing to a superhero that I’ve ever met, in that he’s so powerful and strong and smart, but he does things for the good,” Buss said of James.
She specifically noted LeBron’s campaign to convert arenas into voting centers, which made a significant difference in helping people vote in NBA cities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His on-court ability was also an obvious plus for the Lakers as he helped bring home the first title since Buss became a controlling owner in 2013.
The 59-year-old has seen quite a bit in her career as an executive, including overseeing some of the most important moments in the NBA over the past few decades. On All the Smoke, she discussed some of the biggest moves that didn’t happen in this stretch.
Bryant had strongly considered going to the Los Angeles Clippers at one point before re-signing with the Lakers.
“He loves challenges and that would have been a huge thing,” Buss said. “I do think that was something that was very possible.”
There was also a notable deal in 2011 that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers but it was eventually vetoed.
As Buss explained, the issue stemmed from the fact the New Orleans Hornets at the time were run by the NBA. The team’s general manager agreed to the trade while the members of the board of governors were in a meeting, but he didn’t have the authority to complete any deal.
“David Stern didn’t reject the trade as commissioner,” Buss said. “He rejected the trade as governor of the New Orleans team because he wasn’t asked permission to OK the trade.”
That deal could have extended the dynasty under Bryant but the Lakers instead struggled with six straight years without a playoff appearance. The squad finally found its way back on top with LeBron and it is once again a top contender to win a title in 2021.