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The legend of how Jerry Buss helped keep the Jazz in Utah

Feb 26, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Jerry Buss Hall of Fame Getty Images

Sorry Lakers fans, this does not mean the Jazz “owe you one” and will tank so you can make the playoffs.

But in all the tributes and stories that poured in about the Lakers late owner Jerry Buss in recent weeks, this was one of the more interesting.

Back in 1985 then owner Sam Batiste was looking to sell the team and about 20 people lined up to buy half of the Jazz. Larry Miller, a Salt Lake City guy, was one of them and his plan was to keep the Jazz in SLC. Which is what Battistone wanted, so he picked him, Larry Miller wrote in his autobiography.

Miller had to give a presentation to the other owners before the sale was voted on (as will happen with the Sacramento/Seattle situation in April). Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune does a great job telling the story from there.

When Miller began his presentation, San Antonio’s Angelo Drossos quickly emerged as a skeptic.

Miller wrote: “… I laid out my financial statements showing earnings and equity and the debt structures of my business. Angelo, for some reason, took the lead in the meeting.”

Drossos started questioning Miller, often interrupting before he could finish his response….

After the fifth interruption, Buss, who I had never met, interrupted Angelo,” Miller recalled. “He said, ‘Angelo, why don’t you shut up and let him answer a question?’ “

Then, Buss “started asking questions that led to a discussion of my numbers. … Within half an hour, Jerry said, ‘I’m satisfied. Let’s go with him.’ “

And Miller got the team, the Jazz stayed in Utah and became one of the best teams in the West in the 1990s with John Stockton and Karl Malone (it was just not a great era to be the best team in the West).

It’s a great story and kind of shows you the business side of Buss — he always had a sense of what was good for the league.

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