The Los Angeles Lakers have a history of big men unlike any other in the NBA. The likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are constantly brought up, but the first great big in Lakers, and NBA history, was George Mikan.
On June 18, 1924, the legendary Mikan, the NBA’s first superstar, was born in Joliet, Illinois. Mikan joined the then-Minneapolis Lakers in 1947 as part of the NBL.
That year he would lead the league in scoring, win MVP, and lead the Lakers to the NBL Championship. The following year the Lakers would join the Basketball Association of America.
In his first season there, Mikan would once again lead the league in scoring, setting a single-season scoring record along the way and leading the Lakers to the 1949 BAA Championship.
Following that year, the NBL and BAA would merge to create what we now know as the NBA. In the inaugural NBA season, Mikan would lead the league at 27.4 points per game as the Lakers would defeat the Syracuse Nationals to win the first-ever NBA championship.
After coming up short in 1951, the Lakers, led by Mikan, would win three straight NBA Championships, completing the league’s first-ever three-peat from 1952-54. All together, Mikan led the Lakers to five NBA/BAA Championships, averaging 23.1 points and 13.4 rebounds in his career.
When Mikan retired for good in 1956, he had 10,156 points, the first player to ever reach the 10,000-point mark. He was also a part of the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame class in 1959 and his name is in the rafters of Staples Center along the other greats of the Minneapolis era.
In later years Mikan would also become the first Commissioner of the ABA, creating the iconic red, white, and blue ball as well as instituting the three-point line.
Overall, Mikan was one of the true pioneers of basketball and it was on this day that he was born.
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