Welcome to “This Is LA” – a new weekly series by Joshua Scanlan-Wilson and Bryan Diffendal. Every week, we are going to tackle and breakdown a Lakers season starting from the humble beginnings of 1947/48. Week-by-week we will make our way up to the most recent season. You can expect Draft results, players acquired and lost, overview of the game-play of the season, and much more. Be sure to read on and check back next time for Episode 2!
*The Lakers franchise predates the NBA as we know it. The team actually started as the Detroit Gems. Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen from Minnesota bought the team for $15,000 from Detroit owner King Boring (yes, that is his real name), and his partner Maury Winston. The new owners moved the team to Minnesota, and the Lakers were born.
The newly christened Lakers (named after the Land of 10,000 Lakes) played games in the Minnesota Auditorium and the Minneapolis Armory. The Detroit Gems had the National Basketball Leagues worst record in 1946, an atrocious 4-40. Players from Detroit had already been assigned to other teams so the Lakers had no players. Front offices were formed and many of the Minnesota Gophers former college players made up the original roster.
In 1947, the St Paul Saints played in the Professional Basketball League of America, and had a 6’10” center by the name of George Mikan. The collapse of this league would fortify the Lakers dynasty for years to come. Players from this disbanded league would be made available for an NBL Draft. The Lakers, by way of the Detroit Gems, had the first pick and selected the future hall of fame center. John Kundla, who was also from Minnesota, was brought on as coach and they were ready to go.
Throughout the duration of the season, the Minneapolis Lakers were switching between two stadiums for their home games, The Minneapolis Auditorium and The Minneapolis Armory.
The roster for the team also underwent a fair amount of changes. The roster went from nothing to a championship winning team in a single season.
The Lakers roster for the 1947/48 season consisted of:
Warren Ajax – F/C – May 12, 1921 – 6’2″ – 170 – Minnesota
Don Carlson – G/F – March 22, 1919 – 6’0″ – 170 – Minnesota
Theodore Cook – G – February 6, 1922 – 6’0″ – 160 – Alabama
William Durkee – G/F – 6’3″ – 205 – California
Jack Dwan – F/G – May 3, 1921 – 6’4″ – 195 – Loyola (IL)
Kenneth Exel – G – September 12, 1920 – 6’1″ – 178 – Minnesota
Robert Gerber – C/F – 6’4″ – 218 – Toledo
Tony Jaros – F/G – February 21, 1920 – 6’3″ – 180 – Minnesota
Johnny Jorgensen – G/F – December 28, 1921 – 6’2″ – 180 – DePaul
George Mikan – C – June 18, 1924 – 6’10” – 230 – DePaul
Paul Napolitano – F/G – February 3, 1923 – 6’2″ – 185 – San Francisco
Joe Patanelli – F – September 18, 1919 – 6’3″ – 205 – Indiana(?)
Jim Pollard – F/C/G – July 9, 1922 – 6’3″ – 185 – Stanford
Jack Rocker – C/F – August 12, 1922 – 6’5″ – 185 – California
Herm Schaefer – G/F – December 20, 1919 – 6’0″ – 175 – Indiana
Don Smith – G/F – July 27, 1920 – 6’2″ – 190 – Minnesota
George Mikan (C), who went on to be the most iconic center of his time, future Hall of Famer Jim Pollard, and playmaker Herm Schaefer were key pieces to the championships.
There was the before stated name change from the Detroit Gems to the Minneapolis Lakers (with the Los Angeles part coming later…)
The main and only member of staff credited is MNL head coach John Kundla.
In-Game Facts And Stats:
The Lakers led by Pollard started off the season with a 49-47 win over the Oshkosh All-Stars. Jim Pollard was the leading scorer that day with 10 points. Herm Schaeffer was added to be a playmaking guard from the Indianapolis Katuskys, and Mikan was added 4 games into the season. The team had 8 winning streaks of at least 3 games with the longest being 8 games.
**On Thursday February 19th, 1948, the Lakers played an exhibition game against the Harlem Globetrotters. The game was heralded as the game of the year. America was still segregated in 1948 even after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. This game had 5 African Americans versus 5 white men and was going to be something to behold. The game came down the last shot and the Trotters won 61-59.The Globetrotters kept their 103 game win streak intact. Double teaming George Mikan was the only way they were able to pull out the win. This game would help pave the way for integration in the NBA.
The Lakers won the NBL’s Western division by 13 games with a record of 43-17.
The World Basketball Tournament was made up of some of the best independent and barnstorming teams of the time. The Lakers beat the Wilkes Barre Barons, the Anderson Packers and the New York Rens to win the championship.
The NBL championship also resulted in a title beating the OshKosh All-Stars 3 games to 1, the Tri Cities Blackhawks 2-0 and the Rochester Royals 3-1.
I feel like this season was 110% better than everyone would’ve thought for the “Detroit Gems” seeing as they had had such a bad season prior. I mean, winning an NBA championship within the first 12 months of your team being built is crazy. Gaining all these great players starting with a simple first pick and proceeding to come back from the worst reputation possible and then winning the biggest award in the whole league is great. And we all know that they only got better. 😉 – Joshua Scanlan-Wilson
My take away from this first season sounds similar to the show time Lakers of the 80’s, with running the offense through Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Magic Johnson running an opportunity fast break. The fact that Mikan lead the league with 21.3 points per game in the pre shot clock era is astonishing. John Kundla was not much for play calling but he knew his stuff. It was the first of many championship years to follow. -Bryan Diffendal
Lakers Born In 1947:
And so that brings us to the end of episode one of “This Is LA”. You can expect another episode a week from today and one every week for the next year and a bit. Well, until we run out of seasons worth writing about.
- All statistics and facts taken from