George Mikan

While the Lakers sorted things out with their new team, George Mikan of the NBL’s Chicago American Gears continued to dominate the league.


During a time where tall centers were meant to just take up space, the 6’10 Mikan brought footwork, quick hands, and a deadly hook shot to the game. Off the court Mikan was a gentle giant, always polite to fans and his teammates. However, on the court Mikan held nothing back. He cleverly shot his hook shot in a way that he could nail an opponent in the face.

“I would lead my hook shot with the elbow of my non-shooting arm,” Mikan explained in his book Unstoppable. “I used my elbow like the business end of a tire iron and cleared out the path for an open shot… I got away with a lot of fouls that could have been called. I made sure to keep two hands on the ball when going up toward the basket, thereby avoiding the offensive foul. If I would’ve taken a hand off the ball when muscling through my opponents, the whistle would have blown for a foul.”

So impressed by Mikans performance in the 1947 NBL finals, the owner of the Chicago American Gears actually wanted to build a league around him.

Maurice White had created the Professional Basketball League of America. Unfortunately for Maurice and the $600,000 he put into the PBLA, the league folded in just a few weeks. The Chicago American Gears applied to re-enter the NBL, however they were denied by….


Ben Berger and Maurice Chalfen, owners of the Minneapolis Lakers and other NBL owners. Berger and Chalfen knew the Gems, now named the Lakers, had just come off of a 4-44 season. If the Gears were to disband, the Lakers would be able to select first in a dispersal draft of the PBLA. Therefore, the Lakers lobbied hard to deny the Gears re-entry.

Less than a week after the Gears folded, Mikan signed a $12,500 contract with the Minneapolis Lakers.

This is an article by Fred Cervantez. You can follow him on Twitter: @Fmcervantez