Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

I arrived about an hour early for last night’s game against the Celtics, and I’m glad I did.

Everything, both inside and outside of Staples Center was a tribute to Dr. Jerry Buss.

Fans filled L.A. Live – a complex that would not have been possible with Jerry, and signed the giant memorial banners hung there.

Upon entering the arena, video tributes played throughout the hallways for Jerry. Laker fans settled in – on time for once, and got set for the video tribute to Dr. Buss inside the arena.

Kobe then got up to speak, and showed that being a franchise player is about more than numbers. A franchise player for the Lakers must find words when there are none. He must lead more than just 12 men on the roster, but the entire city through tough times. The Lakers are Los Angeles, and the franchise player is their leader. Like Magic before him, Kobe has been a model of a franchise player.

Following this tribute, there was a moment of silence. The arena darkened, the Jumbotron turned off. After a moment, Dr. Buss’ voice echoed through the arena.

“The real purpose of what I do is to try to have this city totally involved and identify with them. That when you think of L.A. people will say ‘oh, thats where the Lakers play. Lakers, Lakers’”

“Jerry! Jerry!” The crowd chanted. Emotion filled the building. It swelled from the court all the way to the rafters, where Jerry hung 10 championship banners. Jerry has united the city, given them a team to identify with.

The emotion may have been too much for the girl singing the national anthem, because she lost herself in the middle of the song, and had to pause.

But the crowd cheered her on, and she finished the anthem. It was time for the game to begin.

Nearly every aspect of the game was a reminder of Dr. Buss. The lighting in the arena, which he wanted to be “like a broadway show,” Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”, the Lakers band, Jack sitting courtside, and of course, the Laker Girls. His presence fills every aspect of the entertainment experience.

Sitting there, watching, I couldn’t help but think. How will it all change in the coming years?

The Celtics won the tip, and the crowd roared “Defense!” on the first possession. This never happens at Laker games, but neither the fans nor the players were willing to let the Lakers lose this game.

Dwight came out strong, committing to the defensive end, and working hard in the post.  Maybe he felt the love everyone showed towards Dr. Buss, and is beginning to understand what it means to be a Laker. The crowd certainly responded to him. He showed heart when we all felt it.

Maybe now he can finally get on the same page as this fan base – understand the deep love for the Lakers we all have.

Dr. Buss’ presence hung over the entire game. He touched every facet of the game experience, and turned Lakers-Celtics into a legitimate rivalry. Before Jerry, the Celtics dominated the Lakers, and the NBA.

Jerry Buss bought the Lakers and beat the Celtics (10-4 titles, and 3-2 head to head in finals), turning the Lakers from mere foils for the Celtics’ greatness, to feared and hated rivals. He gave L.A. a taste of the beating Boston, and L.A. ate it up.

During the game, the crowd chanted “Boston Sucks” on no less than four occasions. In the second half, the house band even began pounding a beat for “Boston Sucks” chants. The Lakers, the arena, and the fans were all united in carrying on the rivalry, which is the real celebration of Dr. Buss’ Legacy.

While the night began with a moment of silence to honor Dr. Buss, it ended with the ultimate tribute. A victory over the hated Celtics, and fans chanting the ritual “Boston Sucks” commemorating the rivalry that Jerry Buss created.

After the game ended, “Boston Sucks” chants filled Staples Center and the streets outside.

Laker fans were being simply being Laker fans. However, just like Dr. Buss created courtside seats, the Laker Girls, and Showtime, he created the identity of the modern Laker fan.

These days reveling in beating Boston is the ultimate expression of being a Laker fan. Dr. Buss led the Lakers to defeat the Celtics the first time, and he didn’t stop there. Beating the Celtics 3-2 head-to-head, and 10-4 (championship count) over the course of his ownership, Dr. Buss taught the Lakers and their fans what it felt like to beat the Celtics, and now we can’t get enough.

Jerry Buss craved victory over the Celtics, and now we do. He gave us a reason to chant. He gave us a rival, and defeated that rival. He gave us more than any owner has ever given a fan-base, and we are grateful.

The “Boston Sucks” chants are more than just a jab at the Celtics. They honor Dr. Jerry Buss, the man who beat Boston.

Dr. Buss, you have taught this team, and this city to enjoy the thrill of victory, especially when it comes at Boston’s expense.

Now, the Lakers and their fans fight on without you.

We got off to a pretty good start.

Dr. Buss, you have taught us well, and we will uphold your legacy.

Boston Sucks.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Buss.