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Why Are the LA Lakers Called the Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t start as the Lakers, nor were they based in Los Angeles. Founded in 1946 as the Detroit Gems they racked up a dismal 4-40 record in the NBL performing even worse financially. The Gems were acquired by two Minnesota natives who relocated the team and changed the name to the Minneapolis Lakers. Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 lakes, so the name made sense until they moved to California.

Why did the team start in Michigan, and why did they eventually choose to flip over and head on down to Los Angeles?

The Gems Didn’t Last Long

The Detroit Gems played one full season in the NBL, but they really didn’t last long after that. It was essentially time for them to rebrand after getting folded in a short amount of time. Luckily, they were able to find two Minnesota businessmen to save the franchise and keep it up and running. They spent a whopping $15,000 to purchase the franchise all those years ago to keep it operational. And for those that don’t know what that $15K would translate to in today’s age, it is somewhere around the $200K mark. The most important part of their payment for the franchise was that they could have gotten it for free in a few months. However, they desperately wanted to keep it running due to how bad they were beforehand. These two Minnesota natives changed their name to the Minneapolis Lakers for the reason we discussed earlier. They understood that the team was bad at the time and poured all of their effort into the franchise to prepare to get the number one pick in the upcoming draft. Eventually, these two businessmen were able to change the fortunes of the formerly known Detroit Gems.

Why Did They Move To Los Angeles?

Surprisingly, a lot of this relocation started when the team was in discussions with a top player on their roster. George Mikan, their star center at the time, was renegotiating his contract. He was leaning towards staying in the Chicago area where he grew up. I think they did quite literally everything in their power to convince him to play for them. They even went so far as to purposefully make him miss a flight back to Chicago so they could form another pitch to him.  Mikan wound up staying with the Minneapolis Lakers and they won a championship in their debut season alongside Jim Pollard. They came out on top again in the following season and went to join the BAA, the Basketball Association of America. They won another championship after merging to the new league. So, these guys were rapidly rising in popularity as the team to watch. That was until Mikan retired from basketball. The team dropped down the standings and many people simply lost interest in how they were playing from that point on. Their owners claimed that the fans were simply spoiled by the winning that they were doing, which is what he felt was the main cause in the decline in attendance. They wanted to skyrocket back up the rankings and started to float around the idea of relocation. It was then that the Lakers chose to follow in the footsteps of a few other successful professional sports franchises at the time. The formerly known Brooklyn Nets left New York to head to LA for a little while and the Harlem Globetrotters were talking about founding a new franchise of their own in California. Bob Short and Frank Ryan then brought together the money to purchase the franchise and move it to Los Angeles to form what we all know is the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers Are A Storied Franchise

Ever since the Lakers made the move to Los Angeles, they’ve been arguably the most successful franchise that the league has ever seen in its long history. They are currently tied for the most NBA Championships in league history with a ridiculous 17 titles. They also have the most NBA Finals appearances, the record for All-Time wins and the same record for All-Time winning percentage. Some of these records aren’t even close either, as they have 10 more Finals appearances over the second closest team, the Boston Celtics. They’ve had numerous NBA legends suit up in that Lakers gold over the years, such as Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol just to name a few of them. Nowadays, it’s interesting to think where this team could have been had they never made the move to Los Angeles. They likely wouldn’t have had nearly the same amount of talent join their ranks as they have in the past. Many people wanted to play for the large California market and others followed suit of the success that they had in their introduction to the NBA. All of these factors resulted in players from all over the country wanting to suit up in a Lakers uniform and help them win games. If they were in Minneapolis, who knows what could have happened with the now-known Minnesota Timberwolves. Plus, the Lakers likely would have been considered one of the smaller market teams in the league, forcing a few guys like LeBron James onto another team instead of them if it were to happen.