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George Mikan

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George Mikan

George Lawrence Mikan (June 18, 1924June 1, 2005) was an American professional basketball player who is regarded as having been the first superstar in the National Basketball Association. Standing at 6 feet, 10 inches (2.08 m), he is also regarded as the first successful "big man" in basketball history.

Mikan was born in Joliet, Illinois to Croatian parents, and played college basketball at DePaul University (1941-45) under coach Ray Meyer. He began playing professional basketball with the Chicago Gears of the National Basketball League, leading them to the NBL title in 1947. When that team folded, he signed with the Minneapolis Lakers, which joined the NBA in 1948. Mikan was one of the most dominant players in the early years of the NBA, and rules were changed in an attempt to handcuff him. When he played college ball at DePaul the goaltending rule was instituted because of Mikan. The NBA doubled the width of the free throw lane and because of the slowdown tactics used against him, which resulted in the lowest-scoring game in league history when his Lakers lost in 1950 by the score of 19-18 to the Fort Wayne Pistons, the NBA eventually instituted the 24-second shot clock.

Mikan scored 11,764 points (22.6 ppg) in nine pro seasons, which was the best in league history when he retired. He led the league in scoring six times (1946-1952), including a career-high 28.4 ppg in 1951. He led the league in rebounding in 1953 (1,007, 14.4 rpg) and in rebounding average (1952, 13.5 rpg). Annually, he was one of the league leaders in free throw attempts (4,597 for his career). Mikan always wore his trademark round-rimmed eyeglasses while playing.

Mikan and the Lakers won 6 league championships (one NBL, one BAA and four NBA) during his playing days. He retired after the 1953-1954 season, but returned briefly in the 1955-1956 season. He also coached the team in 1957-1958. In later years, Mikan was the first commissioner of the first American Basketball Association; he introduced both the 3-point line and the league's trademark red, white and blue basketball.

Mikan suffered from diabetes, which resulted in his right leg being amputated below the knee in March 2000. The Minnesota Timberwolves honored Mikan by placing a statue of him in the lobby of the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota the next year. Mikan is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and was named one of the league's 50 greatest players in 1996. Despite the differences in the play and rules of NBA basketball over the years, analysts believe that Mikan would have been a star in any era. NBA big men who came after him—including Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille O'Neal (who paid for Mikan's funeral)—have learned from watching Mikan's moves (obviously, on solely film and tape in the cases of Garnett, Duncan, and O'Neal) and acknowledged his greatness.

Mikan died in Scottsdale, Arizona at age 80 on June 1, 2005 of complications from diabetes and other ailments. As noted, his family accepted an offer from Shaquille O'Neal to pay for the former Laker legend's funeral. His death brought media attention to the plight of several early-era NBA players. Although the league's star players now make millions of dollars annually and even the league's minimum pay is several times the annual income of most Americans, Mikan's pension from the NBA, even though he was classified as one of its all-time greatest players, was only about $1400/month, less than the cost of the assisted living facility he was inhabiting at the time of his death. Many commentators, especially those associated with ESPN Radio, felt that current players should in the league's upcoming labor negotiations demand an increase in pensions for former players, especially for those whose playing career predated the "big money" era.

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References

fr:George Mikan ja:ジョージ・マイカン

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