Bryant wasn’t sure what he was going to say about Buss a few hours before the memorial service for the deceased Lakers’ owner, saying only it would come “from the heart.”
When he spoke at Nokia Theatre, he mentioned his first meeting with Buss.
“I remember Dr. Jerry Buss telling me, ‘I want you to become a Laker for life.’ At the time, I was 17, stubborn, a know-it-all kid. The trust that he had in me to deliver for this franchise and all the history that this franchise had made me want to go the extra mile for him, made me want to believe in him.”
Bryant said his most memorable off-season was actually 2005, not 2004 or 2007.
“The biggest summer to me was the summer when we were looking for a head coach,” Bryant said. “[Buss] sits me down and he says, ‘You know, what do you think about brining Phil Jackson back to coach again?’”
Bryant recreated the scene Thursday by grimacing and shifting uncomfortably: “ ‘I don’t really know how I feel about that, Dr. B,’ ” Bryant said.
“And he just looked at me and he just said, ‘Trust me.’ And I did. And that has taken us to a whole ’nother level in winning another two championships. That came from his vision. He knew what he wanted to do. He knew how he wanted to go about it. He also had this ability to convince you to follow him.”
Bryant had some words for the present-day Lakers as well, their 26-29 record as stunning as it was underwhelming.
“For our current Lakers, we’ve been going through kind of an up-and-down season. I encourage all of you, me included, to just look around the room and look at the greatness of one man’s vision. Look at the players that are here, all the coaches that are here. We all have one thing in common, is that we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss.
“We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season. We are playing for the memory of a great man. Dr. Jerry Buss.”Buss' son John also pointed to the owner's gentle, guiding hand when he addressed the audience.
"On the surface it seemed that everything went right for this man and in a way it did, but not without strenuous work hours, passion, diligence," John Buss said. "Not everything went right but because he was always thinking ahead, everything became right. His honesty, integrity, insight -- coupled with kindness, humility and a gentle disposition. He truly had the right stuff.
"He loved Los Angeles and as we can see Los Angeles loved him too."
Frank Mariani also reflected on his former business partner's personal side.
"You and I have been friends and partners for over 50 years," Mariani said. "You are the same person in your private and your public life. You are somewhat of a shy and stubborn person. You're extremely courteous and considerate. Your kindness knows no bounds. You have tolerance and patience almost to a fault. Your loyalty is unparalleled."
Mariani added that it was never time to make a business move without assuring equity for both sides.
"Once he felt it was a fair deal for both parties, he'd say, 'Frankie let's go cut the deal,'" Mariani said.
"Jerry, last time I saw you, I told you how much I love you and miss you. I know we'll be together forever. Somehow you left without me, but I'm sure I'll catch the next flight out."Jerry West, one of the greatest Lakers who won a championship as a player and was the architect of others as a general manager, remembered meeting Buss in 1979.
"I met a man that was truly unique," West said. "Different, but a good different. Just being around him and just feeling the warmth in him, he was genuine. He was a man for all people.
"Even when he was having his greatest successes, he was the most humble, unique man I ever met.
He knew what we wanted with the team."
West recalled one of his first meetings with Buss as a consultant. West said that Buss told him, "I want people to come see a winning basketball team but I want entertainment, very much like a Broadway show."