Professional Basketball Player. His height changed the way basketball was played resulting in many rule changes. In college, George Mikan simply swat away any shot above the rim, leading the NCAA to institute the goal tending rule. The NBA doubled the width of the free throw lane and countered slowdown tactics used against him...his 1950 Lakers lost 19 to 18 in the lowest scoring game in NBA history leading to the 24 second shot clock. He is credited with taking the fledgling professional basketball game from playing before hundreds of players to packed houses in cities across America. He was born George Lawrence Mikan Jr to second generation Croatians George and Minnie Mikan. The family ran a bar and restaurant in the prison-and-steel town of Joliet, Illinois which was owned by his Croatian immigrant grandparents George and "Blondie" Mikan. He had a brother Joe (older) and Ed (younger) and a sister, Marie (the baby). The family residence was on the second floor of the tavern. George was well over 6 feet tall by the time he was eleven. His only early sports achievement was winning the Will County marble-shooting championship at age ten where the prize was free attendance to a game at Comiskey Park between the White Sox and New York Yankees. The high point was a meeting with Babe Ruth. George attended St Mary's Croatian Elementary and was on the basketball team, then on to Joliet Catholic High School but after the coach found him to be nearsighted and unable to see without thick glasses cut him from the team. This caused him to enroll at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago. His Grandmother wanted him to become a priest. After graduation, Coach Ray Meyer, gave him an athletic scholarship to DePaul University. With George in the lineup, DePaul won the National Invitational Tournament title while named all-American three times and college player of the year twice. He was rejected for military service during the war because of his height and poor eyesight. His professional career started with the Chicago American Gears then became a mainstay with the Minneapolis Lakers leading them to five championships. He announced his retirement after just ten years in professional sports due to injury. During his career he suffered from broken legs, feet, wrists, fingers, nose and kneecap His post basketball life...He coached the Lakers during the disastrous 1957-58 season. When the now defunct American Basketball Association was organized, he was made commissioner introducing the distinctive, distractive, red, white and blue striped ball. Mikan subsequently became a lawyer in Minneapolis and ran a very successful Travel Agency. He lobbied for an NBA franchise, along with Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich, for the Twin Cities, to replace the long departed Lakers which proved successful with the award of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ventured into the field of roller-hockey with ownership of the Chicago Cheetahs which folded after only two seasons. He ran for the 3rd U.S. congressional seat of Minnesota as a Republican in 1956 losing by a scant few thousand votes. As the shadows of old age fell over George and with health problems, he left the cold of Minnesota and moved to Arizona. Diabetes plagued him and kidney problems took him. George was admitted to a Scottsdale hospital, where he spent six weeks receiving treatment then transferred to a Scottsdale Arizona rehabilitation center passing away 18 days shy of his 81st birthday. A small private memorial service was held at Messinger Pinnacle Peak Mortuary in North Scottsdale with his wife of 58 years, Patricia, his children, grand children and close friends in attendance. During a game during the 2005 NBA playoffs, there was a moment of silence to honor the man who gave professional basketball, with exciting play, sport recognition and acceptance when it held the "Orphan Annie" niche of sports. Legacy...Elected a Charter member to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. George was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1996. The Associated Press in 1950 voted him greatest player of the first half of the century. A statue of Mikan taking his trademark hook shot was dedicated at the Target Center in Minneapolis during a Timberwolves-laker game. In a bit of trivia...He was the first basketball player to appear on the Wheaties "breakfast of champions" cereal box. He penned his biography with ghost writer Joseph Oberle entitled: "Unstoppable-The Story of George Mikan" which was published in 1997.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
Patricia Lu Daveny Mikan