Vern Mikkelsen Rumors
John Mikkelsen was living in California when his mother, Jean, died in 2002. He started commuting with some frequency to spend time with his father, Vern, who lived in Wayzata. “In 2008, Dad had hip replacement surgery, and then he had a stroke,” John said. “I moved back to spend time with him. It went pretty quick here at the end. Even this month, we were watching games, talking, laughing.” Vern Mikkelsen, the Hall of Fame basketball player for the Minneapolis Lakers, died at home Thursday night at age 85.
John was with him. Vern’s other son, Tom, lives in the Phoenix area. Tom’s sons, Kyler, 12, and Caden, 10, called from Phoenix and were able to talk with their grandfather in the hours before his death. “It was beautiful,” John said.
It is difficult, maybe impossible, to think of what it was like to play in the NBA over six decades ago, when Vern Mikkelsen made his debut. So don’t think of it in years. Instead, try it in feet and inches. When Mikkelsen took over the forward spot for the Minneapolis Lakers and became a 10-year mainstay with the team, the man he replaced, Don “Swede” Carlson, was 5-foot-11. That’s how long ago it was. It was the autumn of 1949 and Mikkelsen, a husky, 6-foot-7, 235-pounder, would join the most dominant team, at any level, since the game was invented nearly 60 years before.
The Lakers won in 1950, and then from 1952 through 1954. “They were just big people,” said Earl Lloyd. “The two really huge people were Mikkelsen and Mikan. You think it was an accident that they won all those titles?” “Looking back on it, many guys writing stories figured it was all George Mikan,” Mikkelsen said. “But that wasn’t the case. We would all run the court.” He was right. Mikkelsen was a six-time All-Star and was selected All-NBA Second Team four times. An All-Star seven times, Slater Martin was All-NBA Second Team five times. Pollard, too, was an All-NBL and All-BAA selection and a four-time NBA All-Star.
Now owner Bob Short wanted Mikkelsen to be his player-coach for the Lakers’ move out west. “He said, ‘Everybody’s got a price; what do you want?'” Mikkelsen recalled. “I didn’t want to go, so I said $50,000, knowing he couldn’t afford that. I was with my wife, Jean, and I said, ‘Thanks for the dinner.’ He said, ‘Don’t ever leave without making a counteroffer. I’ll tell you what: I’ll pay you $25,000 and will give you 25 percent of the team as an owner.'” But Mikkelsen refused. Six years later, Jack Kent Cooke bought the team for $5.5 million. “Cooke had them for 10 years and sold them for something like $65 million to Jerry Buss,” Mikkelsen said. “I didn’t think the Lakers would get to Sioux Falls much less L.A.” He went home to Minneapolis and developed his business, spending more time with his wife and two sons. In 1995 the Hall of Fame called, notifying him that he and Kundla would be inducted in the same year. “It was great to go in with Kundla,” Mikkelsen said.
Vern Mikkelsen, a Hall of Fame basketball player who won four NBA titles with the Minneapolis Lakers, has died. He was 85. Mikkelsen died on Thursday night surrounded by family, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Friday. He was a six-time All-Star during 10 years with the Lakers, teaming with George Mikan and Jim Pollard in a frontcourt that to this day is considered one of the best the league has ever seen.