Backstory and Context
George Mikan had a massive impact on the city of Minneapolis during and after his playing career. At DePaul, Mikan proved anyone can become a really good basketball player with hard work and dedication. At the time, it was thought to be impossible for a tall player to excel in basketball, because they would be too clumsy. DePaul Coach Ray Meyer taught George to play with pride and aggressiveness. Mikan underwent rigorous training while at DePaul. As part of his workouts, Mikan jumped rope, boxed, and took ballroom dancing lessons. Mikan was also working on the hook shot, which he pioneered in the NBA. George led DePaul to the NIT championship in 1945.
Mikan was signed out of college to the Chicago American Gears, a National Basketball League team, in 1946. After a few years of dominating for the American Gears, the NBL and Basketball Association of America combined to form the National Basketball Association in 1949. Mikan was on the Minneapolis Lakers at the time. Mikan and the Lakers were the first dynasty the league has ever seen. The Lakers won 5 championships in 6 years, led by Mikan. George only played 10 years, retiring in 1956. Here are some of his career stats and achievements:
· 5× BAA/NBA champion (1949, 1950, 1952–1954)
· 2× NBL champion (1947, 1948)
· NBL Most Valuable Player (1948)
· 4× NBA All-Star (1951–1954)
· NBA All-Star Game MVP (1953)
· 6× All-BAA/NBA First Team (1949–1954)
· 2× NBL season scoring champion (1947, 1948)
· 3× NBA season scoring champion (1949–1951)
· NBA season rebounding champion (1953)
· Greatest Player of the First Half-Century (1950)
· NBA 25th Anniversary Team (1970)
· NBA 35th Anniversary Team (1980)
· NBA 50 Greatest Players (1996)
· 2× Helms Player of the Year (1944, 1945)
· Sporting News Player of the Year (1945)
· 3× Consensus first-team All-American(1944–1946)
· No. 99 retired by DePaul
George forced the NCAA and later the NBA to adopt the traditional goaltending rule. At the time of Mikan's DePaul career, you could alter the path of the ball within any period of its arc toward the basket. No goaltending rule existed because nobody thought that it was possible for somebody to be able to reach the height of the ball. The current goaltending rule states you cannot touch the ball while it is on the descent of its arc. This isn't the last rule Mikan changed due to his dominance. Due to the paint dominance of George Mikan, the NBA had to widen the lane from 6 to 12 feet, in attempt to stifle the centers dominance and create a more level playing field. Wilt Chamberlain later caused the NBA to increase the lane to its present width of 18 feet.
Before Mikan entered the NBA, tall basketball players basically didn't exist. It was a widespread thought that tall players would be too clumsy to ever be successful. Mikan quickly changed their mind.
Mikan paved the way for the golden age of centers in the NBA. From Wilt Chamberlain, to Bill Russell, Bill Walton, and Kareem, Mikan proved that a players height has nothing to do with his playing ability. The 60's and 70's were rich with all-time great centers, and we have George Mikan's dominance in the 50's to thank for that.
George Mikan is actually the father of the three point line. In 1967, Mikan was selected to be the first commissioner of the newly founded American Basketball Association or ABA. In an attempt to lure fans away from the NBA, Mikan founded the three point line, an idea which was quickly adopted by the NBA. Mikan is also the reason that the shot clock was invented. On November 22nd, 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons were scheduled to play the Minneapolis Lakers, led by none other than George Mikan. Knowing his team had no chance to win, Pistons coach Murray Mendenhall told his team to hang on to the ball, so they could limit Mikan's damage. The stalling worked and the Pistons won the game 19-18. Mikan scored 15 of the Lakers 18 points. Four years later, the NBA invented the shot clock.
During the mid 1980's Mikan pushed hard for an NBA team in Minnesota. Ever since the disbanding of the ABA, Minnesota didn't have a basketball team. Mikan was instrumental in landing the bid for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989. There is still a statue of Mikan performing a hook shot outside of Target Center, the home floor of the T-Wolves. Speaking of hook shots, Mikan was one of the first ever players to use one in game. The hook shot is still a staple in big men's offensive game today. Can you imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing without his legendary hook? Mikan was also part of the first dynasty in NBA history. Mikan's Lakers won five championships in six years. That's an incredible feat, especially with the league being so young.
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “George Mikan.” Encycloedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 14 June 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/George-Mikan.
“George Mikan Stats.” Basketball, www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mikange01.html.
“George Mikan.” Basketball World, 26 May 2019, www.basketballdailyworld.com/basketball-greats/george-mikan/.
“Home.” HOF BB Players, www.hofbbplayers.com/george-mikan/.
NBA.com. “Legends Profile: George Mikan.” NBA.com, NBA.com, 24 Aug. 2017, www.nba.com/history/legends/profiles/george-mikan.