The Path To Basketball
Mikan was born on June 18, 1924, in Joliet, Illinois, the first son of Joe and Minnie Mikan, owners of a restaurant-bar where Mikan and his two brothers, Joe and Ed, worked after school. Already five feet, nine inches at the age of eight, Mikan towered over his classmates, reaching six feet by the age of 11. His unusual height made him shy, awkward, and extremely self-conscious. During a summer pickup game of basketball, Mikan broke his leg. The leg failed to heal properly, and he spent the next 18 months bedridden. During that time he continued to grow, and when he took his first steps a year and a half later, he was six feet, seven inches.
After attending Quigley Prep School, Mikan enrolled at DePaul University. Over the Christmas holidays during his freshman year, Mikan tried out for George Keogan, the famed basketball coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The tryout was an undisputed disappointment. Facing the varsity squad, who were under instructions from Keogan to throw the ball at his feet, Mikan appeared phenomenally uncoordinated and slow. Keogan's final judgment was that Mikan was hopelessly clumsy.