Lakers News: Great Lakers’ first center will see Jersey posthumously retired – All Lakers
An old-school Lakers great will have his jersey sent to the Crypto.com Arena rafters at the start of Los Angeles’ 2022-23 season.
Former Minneapolis Lakers Hall of Fame center George Mikan’s No. 99 jersey will be the team’s first pre-Los Angeles era jersey to be retired by the club. Mikan was the best player in the team’s first five championships, albeit back when opportunities were limited for black players.
DePaul’s 6’10” big man was one of the big stars of his era, in an era of upheaval for pro ball. After a dominant run in the NCAA, Mikan played his first professional season with the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League. This team was finally folded before the 1947-48 season. The players were distributed to the other 11 remaining NBL clubs, and Mikan landed with the Minneapolis Lakers. In 1948, Minneapolis had joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA).The following year, the NBL and BAA merged, creating the NBA in the 1949-50 season.
A four-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA/BAA Team selection, Mikan led a semi-dynastic team from the first Lakers to consecutive championships from 1949 to 1950 and again from 1952 to 1954. He retired after his last championship, won against the Syracuse Nationals in a seven-game back and forth, at the ripe old age of 29.
The Hall of Famer would fire a Magic Johnson and not retire for a return to the Lakers midway through the 1955–56 season, playing a significantly reduced role for the team. Part of what changed was the NBA’s 24-second clock, introduced for the first time the season after its initial retirement, 1954-55. Mikan’s labored and ground game suffered.
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In 439 career games, Mikan averaged 23.1 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per night, while shooting 20% from the floor (that was a different time), but achieving 78.2% of his free throws. He was recently named to the “NBA 75” anniversary team last season.
After the end of his playing career for the second time, Mikan unsuccessfully tried himself in training. He led LA to a lackluster 9-30 record in the 1957-58 season. Mikan was the ABA’s first league commissioner from 1967 to 1969. During the 1980s, he led a task force to bring another NBA team to Minneapolis (LA left town for the 1961 season -62), who eventually sold the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989.
Of course, Mikan isn’t the only title-winning Lakers big man to see his jersey lifted to the rafters this season.
Pau Gasol, who served in Los Angeles from 2008 to 2014, helped the Lakers make three straight NBA Finals appearances alongside Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. He was the second-best player on two championship-winning teams in 2009 and 2010. The seven-footer’s No. 16 jersey will forever be relegated to history on March 7, 2023. In 1,226 NBA competitions, Gasol averaged 17 points , 9.2 rebounds. , 3.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.5 steals. Although he played his final professional season in 2021 for Spanish club FC Barcelona Bàsquet, Gasol fit in for his final NBA run in 2019, making him eligible for the Hall of Fame next year.
The Lakers are running out of unretired numbers!
The following numbers are now off the table: #8 (Bryant), #13 (Wilt Chamberlain), #16 (Gasol), #22 (Elgin Baylor), #24 (Bryant again), # 25 (Gail Goodrich), #32 (Magic Johnson), #33 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), #34 (Shaquille O’Neal), #42 (James Worthy), #44 (Jerry West), #52 (Jamaal Wilkes) and #99 (Mikan). Will LA finally retire the jersey numbers of LeBron James (#23) and/or Anthony Davis (#3), who after all brought the team their last title in 2020? We will see.
Did other Minneapolis-era Hall of Famers like forward Vern Mikkelsen (six-time All-Star during the team’s Mikan run), small forward Jim Pollard (four-time All-Star -Star), point guard Slater Martin (a seven-time All-Star), and center Clyde Lovellette (a four-time All-Star, though only two of those appearances were as a Laker) get the same treatment?
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