Season Review: 1948-49

Take a look back at the 1948-49 season in which the Minneapolis Lakers emerged as NBA champions.


The BAA clearly had the best arenas in the bigger cities, but the National Basketball League, which featured teams in smaller midwest cities, claimed the best players. However, this changed prior to the 1948 season, when the NBL’s four best teams — Fort Wayne, Rochester, Indianapolis and Minneapolis — jumped to the BAA. Overnight, the best players and the biggest arenas, in the largest media centers, were brought together for the first time.

The Minneapolis team came with the man who would become the sport’s star attraction and the first in a long line of great big men, George Mikan. At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Mikan revolutionized the game with his inside scoring, effortlessly throwing in hook shots with either hand on his way to a 28.3 ppg average, earning him the first of three league scoring titles.

The revitalized 12-team league resumed a 60-game schedule, with Washington finishing first in the Eastern Division and Rochester besting Minneapolis by one game in the West. Minneapolis breezed through the Western Division Playoffs and met Washington in The Finals. Mikan scored 42 points in Game 1, but he broke his wrist during a loss in Game 4. The big man slapped on a cast for the next game and continued to play, and the Lakers carried on to win the title in six games over Red Auerbach’s Washington Capitols.

Mikan’s arrival signaled many things: the advent of the big man, the demise of the NBL, and the rise of the league’s first dynasty in Minneapolis. Washington’s Horace “Bones” McKinney, who had the unpleasant task of guarding Mikan, recalled that even a broken hand suffered in Game 4 of The Finals didn’t stop Mikan.

“He wore a cast that was hard as a brick,” McKinney said. “It fit right in with his elbows. It would kill you. And it didn’t bother his shooting a bit.”


Eastern Division semifinals

New York defeated Baltimore (2-1)

Washington defeated Philadelphia (2-0)

Western Division semifinals

Minneapolis defeated Chicago (2-0)

Rochester defeated St. Louis (2-0)

Eastern Division finals

Washington defeated New York (2-1)

Western Division finals

Minneapolis defeated Rochester (2-0)

NBA Finals

Minneapolis defeated Washington (4-2)


Points — George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers (28.3)

Assists — Bob Davies, Rochester Royals (5.3)

FG% — Arnie Risen, Rochester Royals (42.3)

FT% — Bob Feerick, Washington Capitols (85.9)