Basketball great George Mikan, professional basketball’s first dominant big man, has passed away at the age of 80. The original big man in the middle with less fan fare than most revolutionized the game.
Six-foot-10 with thick glasses, Mikan was so effective as a center at DePaul that he forced the NCAA to adopt the goaltending rule.
Mikan’s Lakers won five of the first six NBA titles after the league was formed in 1948. He averaged 23.1 points per game in seven seasons with Minneapolis before retiring because of injuries in 1956. Mikan was the league’s MVP in its inaugural 1948-49 season, when he averaged 28.3 points in leading the Lakers to the NBA title.
George Mikan, a basketball Hall-of- Famer whose dominance during the 1940s and ’50s prompted the National Basketball Association to change its rules.
The NBA widened the lane area to 12 feet from 6 feet in an effort to make it more difficult for Mikan to score.
In 1950, the Fort Wayne Pistons decided that their best chance to beat the Lakers was to hold the ball and not let Mikan have it. Fort Wayne won, 19-18, in the lowest-scoring game in league history. The NBA implemented the 24-second shot clock a few seasons later.
In what may be one of the greatest shows of respect for Mikan’s dominance was done by the New York Knicks.
Mikan was so dominant that the marquee at New York’s Madison Square Garden read “Geo. Mikan vs. Knicks” prior to a 1949 game between the Lakers and Knicks.
Mikan had suffered from Mikan had suffered from diabetes and kidney failure. He died Wednesday night, according to family members.
To the original big man in the middle, God Bless and Rest in Peace.