Lakers Nation would like to wish a very happy birthday to the late Laker and basketball legend, George Mikan. One this date in 1924, Mikan was born in Joliet, Illinois. “Mr. Basketball” is considered a pioneer in the game of basketball and the first dominant big man of professional basketball.
Standing 6-foot-10, Mikan towered over most of his competitors, as professional basketball was mainly consisted of players smaller in stature. He was one of the most effective scorers of his day, primarily due to his size. Mikan averaged 22.6 points over his nine year professional basketball career. He played with the Chicago American Gears for one year and eight great years with the Minneapolis Lakers.
Mikan was such a difficult defensive assignment and such a prolific scorer that the NBA had to change multiple rules to limit his dominance, such as adding the 24-second shot clock. Mikan led the NBA in scoring three times and in rebounding average twice and he played in the league’s first four All-Star Games.
In his nine year professional career, Mikan played two years in the National Basketball League, one in the Basketball Association of America and six in the NBA, where he won a collective total of seven championships. He was the cornerstone of the NBA’s first dynasty, the Minneapolis Lakers of the early 1950s. In 1950 (while he was still playing), he was named the greatest player of the first half of the century by the Associated Press.
He surprised the basketball world by announcing his retirement in 1954 to spend time with his family while his children were growing up. After his playing career, he spent one year as the head coach for the Minneapollis Lakers. In 1967, he then became the first commissioner of the ABA, where he came up with the idea of having a multi-colored basketball as the league’s official ball.
Mikan successfully lobbied the NBA to add an expansion team in Minnesota for the 1989-90 season. That team became the Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2001, the Timberwolves put up a statue of Mikan in his famous hook shot pose in front of Target Center.
Mikan was in the first class elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959 and named a member of the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996. He passed away in 2005 after a longterm fight with diabetes.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Basketball!
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