Jackson's arrival marked the final step in the greatest rebuilding project of the salary cap era.
When O'Neal agitated for a long-term contract in 2003, the owner balked. The team flamed out in the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons and traded O'Neal to the Miami Heat. Then Jackson walked away, saying he wanted to "pause and reflect."
A few more disappointing seasons made Bryant antsy, and he demanded a trade. But Buss stood firm, intent on keeping the superstar guard as the focus of his team.
"When we got him, that was a dream come true," Buss said. "He's a different kind of player in a lot of ways."
The Lakers lost to the archrival Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals that spring but rebounded to defeat Orlando for the 2008-09 title. The next season, they earned revenge against Boston for another championship.
It was their 10th and final title under Buss, and a particularly satisfying victory for the owner, who said: "One of the biggest reasons I bought the Lakers was to beat the Celtics."
That year, 2010, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Buss, who also owned the Sparks of the WNBA and the Lazers of the Major Indoor Soccer League, eventually sold all of his sports teams except the Lakers. This year Forbes magazine valued the team at $1 billion.
The final months of Buss' life were not a particularly happy time for the Lakers.
Last summer, the team made headlines with another pair of blockbuster moves, paying tens of millions to acquire free agents Howard and Steve Nash.
With Buss' health failing, there was much speculation about who ran the operation, him or his son Jim.
The questions grew louder as the team stumbled out of the blocks, firing Coach Mike Brown and bypassing Jackson to hire Mike D'Antoni.
Despite their Hall of Fame roster, the Lakers suffered a losing record through the first months of the season and fans grumbled. But the recent struggles cannot overshadow what Buss had done for the franchise.
Buss' survivors include his four children from his marriage to JoAnn Mueller: son Jim, executive vice president of player personnel for the Lakers; daughter Jeanie, the team's executive vice president of business operations; another son, John, the Lakers' executive vice president of strategic development; and daughter Janie Buss Drexel, the Lakers' director of charitable services. He is also survived by two children from his relationship with Karen Demel: son Joey, an executive with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' minor-league affiliate; and son Jesse, the Lakers' director of scouting; as well as eight grandchildren. His half sister Susan Hall of Phoenix, half brother Mickey Brown of Scottsdale, Ariz., and stepbrother Jim Brown of Star Valley, Wyo., also survive him.
Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan and former Times staff writer Mark Heisler contributed to this report.