George Lawrence Mikan, Jr.

In his first season with the Lakers, Mikan led his team to the National Basketball League championship, averaging 21.3 points per game and earned unanimous recognition as the league's Most Valuable Player.

As the cornerstone of the Minneapolis Lakers (1947-56), Mikan led the NBA in scoring three times, played in the first four NBA All-Star Games, and led the league in rebounding twice. He scored 11,764 points in nine pro seasons, best in league history when he retired.

Mikan was such a drawing card that he quickly became almost bigger than the league itself. This was sufficiently demonstrated when the Lakers paid their first NBA visit to New York in 1950 and the Madison Square Garden marquee simply read, "Tonight George Mikan versus the Knicks!"

He did seem to single-handedly overpower the league at times, so much so that the NBA tried to make it more difficult for him to score by expanding the width of the key, from 6 feet to 12 feet. The 24-second clock also came about because of Mikan. During a game in 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons decided that the only way they could win was to hold onto the ball and not let the Lakers have it. They ended up winning, 19-18, in the lowest-scoring game in NBA history. The league implemented the 24-second shot clock a few seasons later.

Following the Lakers' 1954 championship run, Mikan stunned the basketball world by announcing his retirement. During the 1955-56 season he came out of retirement to play 37 more games for the Lakers before retiring for good.

In 1967 he returned to the basketball world to become the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association. Faced with all the problems of trying to create and sustain a fledgling professional sports organization, Mikan came up with the novel idea of the league's multi-colored basketball. He decided on a ball with red, white and blue panels. The ball was patriotic, looked good on TV, and would have high salability. He served as ABA commissioner
until 1969.

In the mid-1980s, he resurfaced as the head of a task force whose goal it was to bring professional basketball back to Minneapolis. His successful lobbying of the NBA to add an expansion team resulted in the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Mikan was in the first class elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.

George Mikan currently lives with his family in Arizona.


Joliet's George Mikan was one of the most dominant players ever to play in the NBA. His contributions to the sport and his impact on the NBA still loom as large as his 6-10 frame.

George Mikan, born on June 18, 1924, was professional basketball's first superstar. It was Mikan who redefined basketball from a game dominated by quick, small players into a game dominated by giants. The Associated Press voted Mikan
the basketball player of the half-century in 1950.

Growing up, Mikan played some neighborhood basketball in Joliet, with his grandmother often serving as referee--but was too ungainly even to make his high school team. At Joliet Catholic, he had been cut because he needed glasses. Following high school, all of the college coaches ignored him except for Ray Meyer at DePaul. Meyer worked with Mikan, getting his arms and legs to work in synch. Before long, he was a basketball player who could use his height to dominate. He was an offensive weapon with amazing strength to go along with his size and once he developed a hook shot which he could launch from either hand, he was all but unstoppable.

The 6-10, 245-pound forward was twice named on All-American teams at DePaul University. He scored 1,870 points at DePaul, best in school history. He led DePaul to the 1945 NIT Championship. He played on DePaul teams that compiled an 81-17 record.

After he graduated in 1946, he made his debut as a professional by joining the Chicago American Gears of the NBL, a predecessor of the NBA, for a record salary of $12,000. Dominating the pro players as devastatingly as he had college players, Mikan scored 16.5 points per game in his rookie year, powered his team to victory in the league championship, and was named to the All-NBL Team.

When the Gears folded at the end of the season, he began his astonishing career with the Minneapolis Lakers, where he would capture six more pro titles.



Back to Top