Owner Bob Short purchased a converted World War II-era cargo plane, a well-worn DC-3, to transport the Minneapolis Lakers for the 1959-60 season. The team's name was adorned on the side of the plane, and newspapers around the world displayed a photo of that aircraft in mid-January 1960.
The reason was the plane was stuck in an Iowa cornfield after making an emergency landing early on the morning of Jan. 18. The Lakers had played a Sunday afternoon game in St. Louis on Jan. 17, spent several hours at the airport before the decision was made to take on a winter storm, left at 8:30 p.m., lost electricity, and four hours later the pilots took at shot at landing in the cornfield.
Everyone survived. Yet, somehow the sight of that plane resting yards from a ditch and perhaps destruction is a symbol of pro basketball's standing in Minnesota's Major League Era.
We had the Lakers' dynasty with six championships in seven seasons (1947-54), in a league with as few as eight teams, and we have the Lynx, trying for their fifth championship since 2011 in the short-season, 12-team WNBA, but when it comes to the four leagues that make an area major league in the age of expansion, pro basketball has carried our hex.
It was that way from the beginning. On Jan. 28, 1960, the NFL announced it would put a 13th team in Dallas for the 1960 season, and a team in Minnesota for 1961. On Oct. 26, 1960, it was announced Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators would move to Minnesota for the 1961 season, while Washington and Los Angeles would get expansion teams.
In between, on April 15, the NBA officially approved the move of the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles. Four days earlier, the 1960 NBA draft was held, and the team still identified as the Minneapolis Lakers selected West Virginia's Jerry West in the second overall choice.
Elgin Baylor AND Jerry West … that could have been us.
The Vikings' enormous mob of followers, old, middle-aged and young, all mouth the idea that this franchise carries some kind of a dark cloud.
Nonsense. It's a team that for 57 seasons has received more good breaks than bad — so much so that I used to refer to Bud Grant as "Horseshoe Harry."
Four Super Bowl losses? They deserved 'em all. Gary Anderson's miss? He was due. Brett Favre's interception? The Vikings already had received a remarkable season from an old chucker on his last legs. Blair Walsh's miss? That team wasn't going far anyway.
The hockey loyalists, first fans of the North Stars, now of the Wild, also act as if they are plagued by ill-fortune. Hogwash. The '81 Stars, the '91 Stars, the '03 Wild … those were all miraculous runs ended by much better teams.
These laments from Vikings and hockey zealots that claim hexes are absurd in comparison to what has befallen our small, battered group of pro basketball aficionados.
We could have had Elgin AND Jerry. Instead, we waited 29 years for Tony AND Pooh.
In between, the new ABA arrived simultaneously with the North Stars in 1967. First, the Muskies put an excellent team on the court, led by Mel Daniels, and were ignored completely.
Next, the ABA's first champs, the Pittsburgh Pipers, moved to Bloomington with the legendary Connie Hawkins, and the most excitement for fans was the story that the coach (Jim Harding) was drunk at the All-Star Game and punched the owner (Gabe Rubin).
Two ABA teams, two years total, and another two decades before pro basketball returned with the expansion Timberwolves.
Remember that one season, 2003-04, when we were really excited, and the MVP, Kevin Garnett, took the No. 1-seeded Wolves to the Western Conference finals, and then KG's right-hand man, Sam Cassell, got injured, and Derrick Martin and Fred Hoiberg wound up playing point guard, and the Wolves lost in six to the Lakers?
That's a legitimate item on a hex résumé, right there.
And then, after 13 seasons in the wasteland, there was a return to the playoffs, and a present with Jimmy Butler, and a future with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and a team that only would need a shooter or two to move higher. Right?
Not exactly. The summer story line already has been seized, with daily speculation of problems among Butler, Towns and Wiggins, and KAT "not being in a good place" with coach Tom Thibodeau, and how "Thibs" has to change but probably won't, and the 47-win season has descended into a raging blaze of discontent for all interested parties.
Too bad "Dark Clouds" is already taken by a soccer fan group of the Loons.
It would be a fine moniker for Minnesota's NBA followers, dating to belly landing in an Iowa cornfield 58 years ago.