By Brian LaFace
for The Beacon
Just over 70 years ago, George Mikan and the mighty Minneapolis Lakers visited Sheboygan and were upset by the Redskins in a National Basketball Association game.
On paper, there was no way Sheboygan (12-13 at the time) could beat Minneapolis (22-10).
The Lakers had two future Hall of Famers on the floor with Mikan and Jim Pollard, and another on the bench in coach John Kundla.
Sheboygan was a band of misfits, many whose NBA career would only last one season.
But on Jan. 5, 1950, in front of a sellout crowd of 3,400 spectators at the Sheboygan Armory, the Redskins shocked the NBA by winning, 85-82, despite a career-high 43 points from Mikan.
Sheboygan was led by Max Morris, who had a season-high 23 points. Bobby Cook added 21 for fourth 20-plus point outing of the season. Milt Schoon had 12 and Bob Brannum added 11.
In my opinion, it will forever be one of the greatest upsets in the history of professional basketball and the greatest accomplishment of the Sheboygan Redskins during their only season in the NBA.
There are many memories still alive inside the deteriorating walls of the Armory, and this must be one of the best, especially since Sheboygan was one of the charter members of the NBA.
At the time, the Redskins were a member of the National Basketball League, a six-team league that merged with the 10-team Basketball Association of America. The two leagues merged to form what we now call the NBA.
Of the original 17 NBA teams from that first season in 1949-’50, only the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics have remained untouched by the hands of time. The other inaugural 15 teams have either moved to a different city or have folded all together.
The Lakers, who relocated to Los Angeles for the 1960-’61 season, were the most recognizable because they were the reigning Basketball Association of America champions, Mikan was the league’s leading scorer (28.3 points per game) and they were the favorites to win the first NBA title.
Mikan was one of the biggest stars of the league, literally.
At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, he was a monster on the hardwood and the best player in the country. This is what the back of his 1948 Bowman basketball card reads:
“Last year with the Lakers, in NBL, big George broke every NL scoring record and led circuit in scoring with 1,195 points in 56 games. Was named unanimous All-National League Center. He set new record for points in a single game with 42, most field goals in a game with 17 and most field goals in a season with 406.
He also broke NBL free throw record by scoring 383 points in 56 games. He is rated by experts as the greatest basketball player in history.”
The matchup between Minneapolis and Sheboygan is simply a footnote in the long history of the NBA.
But in the short history of the Redskins, a franchise that finished 22-40 in their only NBA season after a dozen years in the NBL and later the National Professional Basketball League, it was much more.
This was the night George Mikan came to Sheboygan.