How Jeanie became ‘Mother of Dragons’ and spawned a new Lakers golden era

When​ Jeanie Buss headed down​ the​ Southern​ California coast on​ the drive​ that​ would​ eventually​ lead her to​ LeBron​ James, the​​ Lakers owner and CEO wasn’t feeling the mother-of-dragons spirit just yet.

It was early February 2017 – 15 months before Kobe Bryant would text her that meme of the Game of Thrones’ queen, Daenerys Targaryen, as both an inside joke and a congratulations for landing the game’s greatest player – and the Lakers heiress was finally facing the decision that had been looming large for years. Would she use the power granted by her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, to fire her older brother, Jim, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak, as punishment for four years of dysfunction and decline? Or, as she wondered that day, would she give them more time to right this wayward ship while hoping that her longtime friend and new ally, Magic Johnson, could help improve the toxic situation?

Jeanie, who just weeks before had hired Johnson as an adviser and was still in the process of plotting her next move, needed to talk to someone who understood the art of ruthlessness.

Enter Bryant, the retired Lakers legend who met her for lunch at a poolside bungalow near his house in Newport Beach and relayed a message that forever changed the franchise: Learn from Daenerys, the heroine who controls fire-breathing dragons and, more importantly, who played a fearless part in her brother’s demise during her rise.

“He said, ‘If you’re going to do this, then go all the way,’” recalled Jeanie, seated on the couch inside her office at the team’s training facility in El Segundo. “He’s Mamba, so he said, ‘If you’re going to play (around), then they’ll come back and kill you if you don’t go all the way…Be decisive, and be quick, and go all in or don’t do it at all, because you’ll sabotage yourself before you even get to start.’ It was good advice. He’s really smart.”