Rise of the Los Angeles Lakers
For over fifty years now the City of Angels, Los Angeles, has been home to one of the most historical and successful franchises in the National Basketball Association (NBA). With so many accomplishments encompassed in its sixty-plus year journey, the story of the Los Angeles Lakers is indeed a colorful one. Sporting the infamous purple and gold, the Los Angeles Lakers have become the second most decorated team in the NBA with a total of sixteen national championships to date; just one behind that other team out in Boston. Some of the greatest players to ever set foot on a court have donned a Laker jersey; and along with these legends, have come some of the greatest games in NBA history. Kobe Bryant, a future Hall of Famer and the face of today’s franchise, is set to be another remarkable addition to the Laker legacy. There is no question then, why high expectations fill the minds of millions of Laker fans every year. See, in Los Angeles, anything less than a national championship is considered a losing season, and why not? After all, the Lakers have had a winning reputation from the very start. The Beginning
The Minneapolis Lakers
The year was 1946, and Sid Hartman, a young sportswriter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was on the hunt for a new team to settle in the Twin City area. As an ambitious young man, “Hartman simply longed to manage a pro club. It was an escape fantasy for him” (Lazenby, 1993, pg. 67). Backed by investors Morris Chalfen and Ben Berger from Minnesota, Hartman set his eyes on the disbanding Detroit Gems. However, before anything was set in stone, the group of entrepreneurs decided to test the waters first. After a successful exhibition game held at the Minneapolis Auditorium between the Oshkosh All-Stars and the Sheboygan Redskins, Hartman was convinced professional basketball would be great for the city. The Gems finished the 1946-47 National Basketball League (NBL) season with a horrendous 4-40 record, sounding the cue for Hartman to make his offer. Maury Winston, the very displeased owner of the Gems, could not have been more pleased. So, on July 6, 1947, Winston signed over the ailing team for $15,000. The Chicago American Gears owner Maurice White, who pulled the Gears out of the NBL, quickly failed in his attempt to assemble the Professional Basketball League of America (PBLA). The PBLA lasted only two weeks before it went under, with a draft that followed to assign PBLA free agents to NBL franchises. Hartman knew he would get the first pick, and there was no question who it would be. The Gears boasted a young, established superstar by the name of George Mikan who, if signed, would immediately put the spotlight on any team battling for his services. With Mikan in his sights, Hartman immediately began construction on his newly acquired Minneapolis team. In time, Hartman would sign on the team’s first head coach, John Kundla, and their first general manager, Max Winter. Winter would prove to be a great general manager, “. . . the team needed a sharp business mind to manage its day-to-day affairs. Winter was perfect” (Lazenby, 1993, pg. 70). Sid Hartman, eager to sign native Minnesota talent to his roster, signed on a young center/forward named Jim Pollard. Considered the best all-around basketball player in the sport, Pollard would be the first integral piece to the Minneapolis team. Along with three other of Pollard’s Oakland Bittners teammates, Sid Hartman had his first package deal in his grasp, “As far as he was concerned, Minneapolis had the cornerstone to its franchise” (Schumacher, 2007, pg. 99). General Manager Max Winter further added to the buzz when he set up a radio contest to find an official team name. The winner, Ben Frank, suggested a name that would forever be synonymous with greatness: the “Lakers.” It was a name fitting for the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” as well as the ore ships, called lakers, which traveled...
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