The History of the Lakers, Part One: The Lakers are founded

In order to help offseason boredom, Fred Cervantez (@Fmcervantez) will be writing about the history of the Lakers. From the 40’s until the end of showtime.

The Lakers are Founded

Lakers lore doesn’t begin in the city of Los Angeles. Nor does it begin in Minneapolis, the land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Lakers history began in Detroit, Michigan with a team named the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League(NBL). The Detroit Gems were founded by jewelry store owner Maury Winston. In stark contrast to the franchise they would soon become, Detroit compiled one of the most humiliating records in basketball history. They ended their inaugural 1947 season with a 4-40 record.

The disastrous season led to the Gems plummeting towards bankruptcy.  Sid Hartman, a Minneapolis sports columnist, saw this as an opportunity to bring his city its first ever professional sports team.

Sid convinced Morris Chalfen and Ben Berger to join his investment group as they traveled to Detroit and purchased the Gems for the sum of $15,000 dollars. No players transferred over, the only thing Minneapolis got from the sale were 15 dirty and worn out uniforms.

The new team was to be named the Vikings, and the owners already purchased Viking letterheads. The team colors were chosen to be blue and gold, the colors of the Swedish flag, in an attempt to connect with Minneapolis’ strong Swedish heritage.

However, a local radio station entered an agreement with the team to allow listeners to name the team through a radio contest. “The Lakers”, a type of boat that is used to transport material around the great lakes, was chosen.

The team moved quickly to acquire players, starting with Stanford standout Jim Pollard. Pollard was an exceptional all around player and athlete. His nickname, “the kangaroo kid”, came from his explosive leaping ability that allowed him to dunk from near the free throw line during warmups. Not only was his $12,000 contract unheard of at the time, part of his agreement was to have the Lakers sign three of his AAU teammates.

NEXT PAGE: George Mikan signs with the Lakers