#3 – Mr. Basketball It was December 14, 1949 and the Lakers team bus had just arrived in New York City for a showdown with the Knickerbockers. Team captain George Mikan and his Laker teammates couldn’t help but notice the message displayed outside of Madison Square Garden. The marquee on one of the most famous arenas on the planet simply read: “George Mikan vs. the Knicks”. I guess that’s why they called him Mr. Basketball.
Before the multi-million dollar contracts. Before Wilt, Russell or Kareem. Before the advent of the shot clock. Before all the national TV contracts. Before pretty much everything, there was George Mikan: the NBA’s first superstar. He stood tall at 6-10 and dominated the league with an unmatched blend of size, speed and strength. Teams would send two, three and sometimes four men at big George, but still they couldn’t stop him. After leading the Lakers to 5 Championships in 7 years, Mikan’s dominance forced the league to reevaluate some of their rules to even out the playing field. His play directly resulted in widening the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet and outlawing defensive rebounding. I’ll say it again, I guess that’s why they called him Mr. Basketball.