NBA’s Greastest : George Mikan, the first ‘Big Man’ in the Game

George Mikan was known as Mr. Basketball once.


The Original center of Basketball, George Mikan was the greatest player in the early years of professional Basketball, representing the Minneapolis Lakers and the Chicago Gears with great distinction. He is regarded as the first true “Big Man” in the game, and is responsible for making basketball a game for tall guys.

Imagine an era without the three point line, and the small men ruling the roost with Big men considered too awkward to play the game. All this changed when George Mikan and his coach Ray Meyer joined hands together to form one of the greatest legacies in the sport.

Mikan was born in Illinois and joined DePaul University to hone his skills. He was made the first true center of the game, and completely dominated the game. He would win team and individual titles for his college in the NCAA championships before moving to the now defunct National Basket League. He played for the Chicago Gears for a couple of seasons before signing for the Basket Association of America and the Minneapolis Lakers. It was here that Mikan truly cemented his greatness. He would lead the league in Points and end up winning another scoring title. After the merger between the NBL and BAA, the NBA in its modern form was realized. Mikan would again lead the league in scoring and help his Lakers side to 5 titles in 6 years from 1949 to 1954, losing only the 1951 championship due to a broken leg to Mikan.

Nicknamed Mr. Basketball, George Mikan was so dominant that it led to a number of rule changes in the NBA. His ability to score consistently from the low post led to the widening of the lane from 6 feet to 12 feet. Mikan worked very hard on his hook shots, able to shoot from either hand and with great accuracy. This led to the formation of the Mikan Drills used to train players today. Mikan was also responsible for the outlawing of the ‘goaltending’ rule, as he would repeatedly stand under the basket and swat away shots on their way down. And finally, the most famous on rule changes came after the merger. In a game against the Lakers, the Pistons were leading 19-18. Mindful of Mikan’s dominance, the Pistons passed the ball amongst themselves and dribbles out the time, ending the game at 19-18. The game was such a farce that 4 years later, the shot clock would be introduced to avoid any more embarrassing situations like these.

You know you have made it to the big time when the entire league has to readjust to your playing style and introduce new rules in order to make the game more even. Mikan would become the first player to cross 1,000 points in a season, the first to score 10,000 points and was the cornerstone for the first dynasty of the NBA. He is still regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game and a statue of him shooting his favorite hook-shot still stands erect outside the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Target Center.

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