Despite the lack of any overwhelming name recognition by today's basketball fans, Mikan is considered one of the most influential basketball players in the history of the NBA. Known as "Mr. Basketball," Mikan's dominance on the floor led to the rule change that widened the three-second lane from six to twelve feet and goaltending rules were revised. Mikan is also credited with the institution of the twenty-four-second shot clock, which was eventually put in place after the Fort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) stalled an entire game against the Lakers in 1950 to remove Mikan's scoring threat. Although he still managed to put in fifteen points, the Lakers lost the game 19-18, the lowest score in NBA history. As evidence of his tenacious play, during his career Mikan suffered ten broken bones and took 166 stitches.
Not only was Mikan the league's first dominating big man, he was the first player to become a major drawing card to bring fans to the NBA. His fierce competitive spirit, rough-and-ready play, and affable character made him a star attraction in every city he played. As Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Springer noted in 2001, "Mikan was 'big' before [Wilt] Chamberlain. He was the master of the hook before [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar. He was Superman before Shaquille O'Neal, Clark Kent before Kurt Rambis. He brought winning times to the Lakers before [Magic] Johnson was born and put the NBA on the map half a century before Michael Jordan took it into the stratosphere." Perhaps the greatest tribute to Mikan's talent and influence on professional basketball came on December 13, 1949, in a game between the Lakers and the New York Knicks. The marquee over Madison Square Garden, where the game was to be played, read "GEO. MIKAN VS. KNICKS."
Mikan, who established a successful business and law practice in Minneapolis, made two other brief returns to professional basketball. During the 1957-58 season he served as the team's head coach, but after the team won only 9 of its first 39 games with Mikan at the helm, he stepped aside. When the now-defunct American Basketball Association organized in 1967, Mikan accepted an offer to become the league's first commissioner, a position he held for two years.
Mikan remained in Minneapolis until the 1990s when he and his wife moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. Diagnosed with diabetes when he was 62 years old, Mikan had his right leg amputated below the knee in early 2000. A prosthesis allowed him to regain his mobility, but he must undergo dialysis treatment three times every week. In 2001 Mikan was honored at the halftime of a game between the Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a nine-foot bronze statute was unveiled out-side the Target Center, the Timberwolves' arena. Mikan is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and was selected as the greatest basketball player of the first half of the twentieth century.
- George Mikan - Career Statistics
- George Mikan - Related Biography: Basketball Coach Ray Meyer
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