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

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.

george-mikan-blocking

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….

Benjamin_Berger_speaking_at_the_National_Jewish_Fund_Dinner

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

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Written by Fred Cervantez

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