He is often thought of as the NBA’s first ever superstar player.
A “franchise center” before the term was even used.
Born in Joliet, Illinois in 1924, Mikan grew to be 6-10. He dominated college basketball with DePaul, averaging nearly 20 points for his career.
After college, he went to the NBL. He won championships there with the Chicago Gears and the Minneapolis Lakers.
The Lakers then moved to the BAA, and they won another title. With the Lakers joining the new NBA, Mikan would win four more titles. Mikan was certainly a winner, he was on the championship team for 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954.
George Mikan had what many would call a complete set of skills. Scoring, rebounding, passing, he could do it all. While he is best known for his scoring, his career average was 22.6 points per game in the regular season and a bit higher at 23.5 in the playoffs, he dominated in other areas too.
At the peak of his skills, Mikan was bringing in 14 rebounds per game. He was also giving out 3 assists per game. There are many guards who don’t do that, and Mikan was a center.
One thing George Mikan was unsuccessful at was coaching. In 1958 he coached 39 games for the Lakers, only winning 9. That also showed what an important player he used to be for the team during those years, as they didn’t win after he left as a player.
Mikan changed the sport of basketball in many ways. Rules were changed because of what he could do, and also due to how other teams tried to stop him. Shot blocking rules were altered to stop Mikan goaltending.
A more famous rule change is the 24 second shot clock. Basketball teams decided that to stop Mikan scoring, they would just hold onto the ball and wouldn’t put up a shot and that way Mikan and the Lakers wouldn’t get the ball back. That was obviously not going to be good for the games, and the fans who were needed to buy tickets, so the shot clock was invented to make sure that never happened again.
What Mikan did was start a tradition of superstar centers playing for the Lakers. The franchise did move to Los Angeles but every time they had success in the future there was a star center, or two, on the team.
The NBA picked him for several anniversary teams to celebrate the best players, the 25th and 35th Anniversary Teams, and he was also part of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History lineup. Mikan is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
George Mikan’s brother, Ed Mikan, also played in the NBA. One of his sons, Larry Mikan, was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When old NBA footage or pictures are shown of Mikan he is always wearing his glasses.
Those pictures also show how big he was, compared to most players of the day. But Mikan wasn’t just tall, as his career free throw percentage of close to 80% shows he had the skills and abilities of the forwards and guards of the NBA of the 1950s.