4 minute read

George Mikan

The First Basketball Dynasty

The Minneapolis Lakers had first shot at signing Mikan. Although he intended his trip to Minneapolis a mere formality, as he did not want to live in Minnesota, Mikan ended up signing a one-year contract for $12,500. As a member of the Lakers, Mikan helped establish the first dynasty in the history of professional basketball. At the end of his first season with the team, he led the league in scoring with 1,195 points in 56 games, for an average of 21.3 ppg. The Lakers were 51-19 for the year and won the NBL championship, taking the best-of-five game series against the Rochester Royals. Mikan, who averaged 27.5 ppg in the finals, was the unanimous choice for MVP.

In 1948 the Lakers were among four NBL teams to join the Basketball Association of America (BAA), a growing and competitive league. Despite being edged out of the BAA's Western Division title by Rochester, who also made the league switch, the Lakers reached the finals of postseason play, beating Red Auerbach's Washington Capitols in the best-of-seven series. Despite playing with a broken wrist in the final two games, Mikan averaged over 30 ppg in the series. He finished the season as the league's leading scorer, averaging 28.3 ppg.

In 1949 Mikan, who had been attending law school in the off season, passed the bar. In the same year the BAA merged with the American Basketball Association to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). During the first year of NBA's existence, Mikan, along with the support of several exceptional teammates that included Vern Mikkelson, Jim Pollard, Arnie Ferrin, and Slater Martin, took the Lakers to another championship title. The Lakers' NBA championship in 1950 was the franchise's third title in three years, each in a different league. Mikan led the NBA in scoring during the 1949-50 season with an average of 27.4 ppg.

Chronology

1924 Born in Joliet, Illinois
1942-46 Four-year letter winner at DePaul University under Hall of Fame coach Ray Meyer
1946 Leads nation in scoring, averaging 23.1 points per game (ppg)
1946-47 Plays for the National Basketball League's (NBL) Chicago Gears
1947-54 Star player for the Minneapolis Lakers
1948 Wins NBL championship with the Lakers
1949 Wins BAA championship with the Lakers; passes the Bar to become a lawyer
1950 Wins National Basketball Association (NBA) championship with the Lakers
1952-54 Wins three consecutive NBA championships with the Lakers
1954 Retires at the end of the 1953-54 season as the league's all-time leading scorer, with 11,764 points (22.6 ppg)
1955 Returns to Lakers during 1955-56 season for 37 games
1956 Retires from playing for good; runs for a congressional seat but loses election
1957-58 Coaches the Lakers for 39 games before resigning, posting a record of only 9 wins and 30 losses
1967 Becomes first Commissioner of the new American Basketball Association (ABA) league and is credited with introducing the league's trademark red, white, and blue ball.
1969 Resigns as ABA commissioner to resume law practice in Minneapolis
2000 Right leg is amputated below the knee due to complications from diabetes

Related Biography: Basketball Coach Ray Meyer

Known for his passion for the game and his ability to teach and motivate his players, Ray Meyer served as the head basketball coach of DePaul's Blue Demons from 1942 to 1984. His record of 724 wins and 354 losses included 37 winning seasons, thirteen National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) post-season appearances and eight National Invitational Tournament (NIT) appearances, twelve 20-win seasons, two NCAA Final Four appearances (1943 and 1978), and a NIT title (1945).

Meyer, who played college basketball for the Irish, led his team to a 40-6 record during his junior and senior years. After graduating, Meyer spent two years as a social worker before returning to Notre Dame as an assistant coach. Meyer arrived at DePaul in 1942, the same year that young George Mikan came to the school. Meyer, who had encountered Mikan the previous year during the gangly young man's failed attempt to try out for the Notre Dame team, recognized Mikan's potential. Using drills such as jumping rope and shadow boxing, Meyer helped Mikan improve his coordination and guided him on his way to becoming one of the game's most influential players.

During the 1950-51 NBA season Mikan was once again the leading scorer, with 28.4 ppg, but the Lakers failed to earn their fourth title when the Rochester Roy upended them in the semifinals of postseason play. Mikan was slowed down during the series by a fractured leg. The following year the Lakers managed to regain the NBA title, but Mikan finished second in scoring with 23.8 ppg, behind Philadelphia's Paul Arizin. The Lakers remained the dominant force in the NBA for the next two years, winning championships again in 1953 and 1954, the team's second three-peat. In his last two full seasons of play, Mikan averaged 20.6 and 18.1 ppg, respectively.

In 1954 Mikan shocked his teammates and Laker fans by announcing his retirement. Wanting to quit while he was still at the top of his game, Mikan decided to pursue the practice of law. Nonetheless, he soon found himself drawn back to the game and team he loved, agreeing to serve as the Lakers' general manager for the next year and a half. However, during the 1955-56 season, in response to a significant decline in attendance due primarily to his absence on the court and the Lakes' subsequent slump, Mikan came out of retirement to play 37 games. But, out of shape and out of practice, he averaged under 11 ppg and retired from playing for good at the end of the season.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBasketballGeorge Mikan - The Path To Basketball, College Ball, The First Basketball Dynasty, Chronology, Related Biography: Basketball Coach Ray Meyer - CONTACT INFORMATION