HBO’s latest sports drama, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, chronicles the story of the Los Angeles Lakers’ rise to prominence in the NBA during the 1980s. Offering an insider perspective, much of the story is focused on what went down behind the scenes, away from the public eye, and the stepping stones that led to the team’s roaring success.
A major plot point is the story of Jerry Buss, the entrepreneur who owned the Lakers from 1979 until his death in 2013. The Buss family takes centre stage for a change, with fans especially loving the character of Jerry’s mother, Jessie Buss, played by Sally Field.
However, few fans know Jessie’s real story – who was Jerry Buss’s mother and what role did she play in the Lakers’ rise to fame?
Who was Jerry Buss’s mother, Jessie?
Jessie Buss was married to Lydus Buss and the couple had Jerry together in 1933 while living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lydus – who was an accountant – left the family to teach statistics at the University of Berkely, California and the pair later divorced. This meant that, from a young age, Jerry Buss was raised primarily by his mother, Jessie.
Jessie supported Jerry’s upbringing by working as a waitress, heavily relying on tips. Despite Jerry’s affluent adulthood, his childhood was largely defined by poverty. His was very much a rags-to-riches story.
In her spare time, Jessie would teach Jerry how to play cards which benefited his future venture as a professional poker player. He said: “I could play a reasonable hand of bridge by the time I was 4. We’d gamble for chocolate bars. In the beginning, she’d have this tremendous edge, but then I’d get to where I could compete with her, and she’d switch games. She was always very proud of me that way. She gave me a lot of confidence.”
Jessie Buss later re-married, to a man named Stubb Brown, who worked as a plumber.
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Jessie Bussie’s death shook fans after Winning Time episode 9
Season 1 episode 9 of HBO’s Winning Time breaks fans’ hearts with the death of Jerry Buss’s mother, Jessie. In the episode, the family matriarch, played by Sally Field, passes away after a short battle with metastatic cancer. While her son Jerry searched hopelessly for alternative medicines, her disease was never cured, and eventually got the better of her.
Devastated fans took to Twitter to mourn the loss.
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What Winning Time gets right
Jessie Buss played a defining role in her son’s entrepreneurial ambitions, a quality beautifully portrayed in the show. In real life, too, Jerry’s mother is said to have been his chief ally and advocate.
While the actual date and timing of Jessie’s death are unknown, she passed away at some point after her son had built his fortunes, which the show gets right, as Jerry Buss recalled in interviews how he enjoyed spoiling his mother with a trip to Hawaii and a monthly allowance, as well as purchasing her a home.