Courtesy of Lanny Doner
$15,000 buys Max Winter and Ben Berger a franchise in what becomes the National Basketball Association. Coached by John Kundla and led by George Mikan, the dominant big man in the game, the Minneapolis Lakers win six championships in their first seven years.*
In 1947, the Detroit Gems were a dead franchise of the National Basketball League. When Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen approached Gems’ owner, C. King Boring, for its purchase, all they received for their money was the equipment. Even the players had been moved to other teams in the league! ***
Berger and Chalfen came up with a new team name, “The Minneapolis Lakers”, as a hat tip to Minnesota’s moniker as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Games were to be played downtown either in the Minneapolis Armory or Auditorium. Needing money and momentum, the pair brought Max Winter onboard as General Manager. ***
Winter possessed the bona fides to make a go of bringing professional basketball to Minneapolis: a first generation American by way of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he played basketball at North High School and Hamline University, and had a name recognition in downtown due to his ownership of the popular 620 Club. ****
In a great reverse, the team was blessed by the failures of the Detroit Gems; a first-round draft pick of center George Mikan. New coach John Kundla and the omnipresent sports reporter and acting general manager Sid Hartman were key in finding talent to round out the team. They didn’t go far, as many of the the Lakers starting team were recent grads from the University of Minnesota. *****
The fledgling Lakers took off from the first season, becoming the NBL champions in 1948. As the league morphed into the National Basketball Association, NBA, their dominance continued with championships in: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, and 1959.
Though game attendance was blunted with the retirement of Mikan, the Lakers’ had a stellar first decade, and went on to become the first NBA franchise on the West Coast when it moved to Los Angeles in 1960. ****** As of February 2019, the grandchild of Berger, Chalfen, Winter, and Hartman a.k.a. the Los Angeles Lakers, achieved a net worth of $3.7 billion according to Forbes magazine. (A growth of 246,666 times the original investment of 1947.) *******
Elohay Mauzi, why do our bodies matter so much to You? G-d of My Strength, we remember today that You live in eternal strength, You created us to be physically potent beings, and You even promise to inhabit our physical bodies as Your living tabernacles! You wrestled with Jacob all night, and then defeated hime with one touch to the hip! You created Samson with tremendous physical abilities; he defeated an army with the jawbone of a donkey. Even in his compromise of his Nazirite vows and moral failures, in Your mercy, You restored him to literally crush the enemies of Your people.
Much like the death of Samson led to his greatest victory, we applaud You Jesus Christ, and remember Your triumph over the false accusations of the Enemy of Humanity in yielding Your life. Though, to human eyes, it seems the Roman Empire and the Sanhedrin had snuffed out the light of Your movement of Eternal Justice; You could not be defeated! You physically died and were buried. Yet You bodily rose again, met Your disciples, and appeared to hundreds in Your Ascension! You are the Champion of the Universe!
In a similar mode, You brought an end to the Detroit Gems, and rebirthed them as the Lakers. What was Your intent in this act, will You reveal more today as we ponder basketball with You? What turned their defeat into victory?
Shall we start with gratitude? We thank You for the initiation of this team through the vision of C.King Boring. We thank You for the sale of the Gems to Berger and Chalfen. We thank You for the unending connections of Sid Hartman. We thank You for the administrative abilities of Winter. We thank You for the Providential meeting of these gentlemen and their perfect imperfections to be the team before the team is brought into existence! We bless their memories, and ask that You bring others in the present and future to envision the business and blessing that team sports bring to our State.
We remember the coaching of John Kundla, and thank You for his strategies. We remember momentary greatness of George Mikan; the ability to make the right decision at the right time. Will You bless our coaches and star players in the present and future to acknowledge and receive from each other? Both roles convey important truths essential to making our young men become better men; we are better at leading after we have practiced following.
Maybe this is where You’re pointing today, Adonai? We don’t become fathers until we have embraced being sons. Where we are rebellious towards our own dads’ leadership, we have opened a vulnerability in ourselves precisely in the areas we judge them. Why? We refused the lesson that the Coach of the Universe had for us that day. We didn’t show up for practice. We didn’t do the drills. We said, “No!” to Your invitation to be a baller.
Have mercy on our rejection of our fathers!
Have mercy on our rejection of our coaches!
Have mercy on our rejection of the captain of our team!
Have mercy on our rejection of our Eternal Father!
Forgive our rebellions, great and small, and the ways we have chosen to be defeated!
Help us be like these original Minneapolis Lakers; “I commit to do the work of a champion. I commit to think like a champion. I commit to believe, in myself and my team, like a champion.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 NIV ********
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
***** Sachare, Alex. “The Dynasties: Minneapolis Lakers”. From the Official NBA Encyclopedia, Third Edition.