"Born to the purple" means someone who comes into the world privileged and royal. That doesn't exactly describe Jeanie Buss. She was teenager when her father, Jerry Buss, bought the Los Angeles Lakers. After he died, Jeanie stepped into the job of president, overseeing the business side (her brother Jim handles the team). The purple-and-gold glamour of the Lakers draws more Web traffic and international fans than any other team in the NBA, as does its impressive list of wins and records. The terrible season this year is just a blip on that record, she promises; for the Lakers, it'll always be Showtime.
For the first time since 2005, the Lakers won't be in the playoffs. Have Laker fans been spoiled by success?
They're the best fans — we should spoil them!
[No one] is happy with this season. This isn't how we roll. Unfortunately, we were put out of the playoff race pretty early. But even [last week], a player like Nick Young — 40 points, a really big game — so you see bright spots.
Laker fans understand Kobe's injury, and bringing in Steve Nash, who had all the promise of something good and then gets injured. Our fans are in it through thick and thin. They need to see steps are being taken, an investment's being made in the team, that we're building for the future to get back to the promised land.
Is that why you are doing more interviews?
It's not my style usually to assert myself so strongly, but I want the fans to know that we're going to get the team back to where it should be.
It's been a year since you lost your father; how are you doing?
There's just days when it feels heavy on your heart. Some days I have dreams about him and he's himself, the way I remember him, not how he was in the last few months. Then I feel closer [to him]. I think that's normal grieving for people.
How has your role changed since he died?
He had been preparing me for a long time, me in my position, my siblings doing what they're doing. He was the person you could go to and talk things through; I just don't have that person I can call when things are tough or a big decision needs to be made.
Did you father design the management setup based on your and your brother's skills?
Yes, he knew our strong points, and I think he prepared us to be successful. He wanted this team to stay in the family. People ask me, is this what you always wanted to do? From the time I was in elementary school, I wanted to work in the family business. [First] it was real estate development. Then my dad switched to sports. I just like working with my family; I like building something together.
Is your business relationship with your brother Jim different from your sibling relationship?
I'm ultimately accountable. If someone isn't living up to expectations, [to] responsibilities, it's up to me to make the change that's necessary, so I guess that puts me in a different situation than just siblings. The media like to pump up that, but my brother has said it as well, that Jeanie's in charge and ultimately he would have to answer to me. But I don't run it like a dictatorship. I like to build consensus. I like everyone to have a voice in how we operate.
You've been called the most powerful woman in pro sports.
I don't think of myself that way. There's some pretty powerful women in sports now. The [NBA] governor for the New Orleans team is the granddaughter of Tom Benson, who owned the Saints. An operating executivewith the Brooklyn Nets is a woman. There are more women in the business.
Your title is president and governor. What does that mean?
The NBA requires that one person is the acting owner, the one person they can get on the phone and is accountable for anything that happens. That's why my dad started taking me to NBA board of governors meetings in 1995; you have to be approved as the owner. They had to get to know me, to know how I manage things, so they had a strong comfort level with me when it came time for that approval.
Has the attitude toward you changed over the last 10 or 20 years?