This is the seventh in a series of examinations of basketball-related legends and whether they are true or false.
BASKETBALL LEGEND: A failed basketball league coup ended up with the Lakers adding George Mikan to their roster (and also perhaps helping to form the NBA).
George Mikan was perhaps the very first basketball player to dramatically change the rules in the National Basketball Association, as rules like goaltending came across because no one ever considered that a player as tall as Mikan (six foot ten inches) could actually keep up with the rigors of basketball.
Other things like centers being allowed to camp under the basket were also changed.
Still, the Minneapolis Laker center dominated the game for his five seasons in the NBA from 1949-1954 before injuries and a determination to spend more time with his family ended his career in 1954 (not counting a brief, and ill-advised, return in the middle of the 1955-56 season that did not work out very well, with Mikan no longer in game shape), with his team winning the championship in four of the five seasons he played for the Lakers (the only season they did NOT win was when Mikan played the Western Finals with a broken leg!!!).
But before he made it to the NBA, Mikan first had an interesting career progression.
When Mikan left college at the end of the 1945-46 NCAA season, there were one major basketball professional leagues, the National Basketball League (NBL), as well as a lower-level league, the American Basketball League (ABL).
Mikan signed on with the Chicago American Gears of the NBL, who were just finishing the 1946 NBL season.
While just playing eight games for the Gears in the regular season, Mikan was a force in the “World Basketball Tournament,” a tournament of NBL teams and all the top independent teams (like the Harlem Globetrotters) which was won by the Gears, notable since they did not even make the NBL playoffs in the 1945-46 season!
Mikan was named to the All-NBL team, despite only playing in a dozen games or so in total.
After the 1945-46 season, another major professional basketball league, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) was formed.
In the 1946-47 season, Mikan led the Gears to an NBL championship. Here’s Mikan with the Gears…
Mikan was SO dominating that Maurice White, the owner of the Gears, had an idea. With the BAA forming up, there apparently was a demand for professional basketball, and he happened to have the one player SO amazing that everyone would want to come see him play, right? This guy was so astonishing that White figured he could build an entire LEAGUE around him!
So after the 1946-47 season, White pulled the Gears out of the NBL and formed his OWN league, the Professional Basketball League of America, where White would own ALL of the eleven teams in the league!
The world was just not ready for FOUR professional teams, and the new league fell apart about a month into the season.
Here’s the key turning point – all of White’s players from his new league were put into a sort of lottery. Each team would receive a random assortment of players from the new league (obviously, the NBL teams could then decide whether to keep the player or not).
So every team in the NBL had about a nine percent chance of getting Mikan.
The Lakers won the “Mikan sweepstakes.”
And, appropriately enough, the Lakers won the 1947-48 NBL Championship.
But after winning the championship, the Lakers ALSO started to have ideas similar to White.
So after the 1947-48 season, the Lakers and three other NBL teams left the NBL and joined the BAA.
The Lakers then won the BAA Championship for the 1948-49 season.
Once again, though, people had thoughts.
So after the 1948-49 season, the NBL and the BAA merged together to form the NBA.
So yes, for four straight years, Mikan’s team won the championship for their league and then either changed leagues or merged. Crazy, huh?
And also, yes, if you do the math – Mikan played played nine full seasons of professional basketball. And in those nine seasons, the ONLY season his team did NOT win their league’s championship was when Mikan was playing on a broken leg.
BASKETBALL LEGEND: Michael Jordan bought a fancy team bus for his minor league baseball team to ride around in.
STATUS: False Enough for a False
The sports world was shaked to its very foundation when Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in the NBA, retired in 1993 to pursue a career a professional baseball player.
He signed with the Chicago White Sox and was assigned to their minor league affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.
While with the Barons, the Barons received a brand new, top of the line team bus, dubbed the Jordan Cruiser.
As the story was reported pretty much everywhere, Jordan purchased the bus (which ran about $300,000) so that he and his teammates could travel in style and comfort.
That’s not entirely true, and it’s “not entirely true” enough that I’m calling it “false.”
You see, Jordan never actually purchased the bus. He did not own the bus – the bus company, Thrasher Brothers Trailways, did (they sold the bus, complete with Jordan’s signature on the bus, in 2005 for a goodly amount of money).
He also did not give any money to purchase the bus.
HOWEVER, he did agree to allow his likeness be used for advertising by the bus manufacturer in exchange for the bus for the team’s use (I don’t know if they literally GAVE the bus or if his likeness was enough for a massive discount).
So yeah, Jordan’s fame certainly help land the Barons in a fancy bus, but not the way that the story was reported at the time (and is still reported today) that Jordan just went out and bought a bus for the team.
BASKETBALL LEGEND: A convicted man asked for his sentence to be INCREASED to honor his favorite baseball player.
Eric James Torpy was in a bind in October of 2005.
The Oklahoma City man was charged with shooting with intent to rob and kill.
His defense attorney and the prosecutors worked out a plea agreemeent for Torpy – he would plead guilty and serve 30 years for the charge.
Torpy, though, had a different idea in mind.
Going under the notion that 33 years was not much different than 30 years (I don’t know if I should even say “going under the notion,” as it makes it sound like he was using logic), Torpy petitioned the court to EXTEND the agreed upon sentence from 30 years to 33 years.
Why to honor his favorite basketball player, Larry Bird, #33, of course!
I sure hope for EVERYone’s sake that this is the oddest tribute that Larry Bird has ever received.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com