George Mikan

George Lawrence Mikan, Jr. (June 18, 1924 – June 1, 2005), nicknamed Mr. Basketball, was an American professional basketball player for the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League (NBL) and the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBL, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Invariably playing with thick, round spectacles, the 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 245 pounds (111 kg) Mikan is seen as one of the pioneers of professional basketball, redefining it as a game of so-called big men with his prolific rebounding, shot blocking and his talent to shoot over smaller defenders with his ambidextrous hook shot, result of his own Mikan Drill.

Mikan had a successful player career, winning seven NBL, BAA, and NBA championships, an All-Star MVP trophy, and three scoring titles. He was a member of the first four NBA All-Star games, and the first six All-BAA and All-NBA Teams. Mikan was so dominant that he caused several rule changes in the NBA, among them the goaltending rule, widening the foul lane—known as the "Mikan Rule"—and introducing the shot clock.

After his playing career, Mikan became one of the founders of the American Basketball Association (ABA), serving as commissioner of the league, and was also vital for the forming of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his later years, Mikan was involved in a long-standing legal battle against the NBA, fighting to increase the meager pensions for players who had retired before the league became lucrative. In 2005, Mikan died after a long battle against diabetes.

For his feats, Mikan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, made the 25th and 35th NBA Anniversary Teams of 1970 and 1980, and was elected one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players ever in 1996. Since April 2001, a statue of Mikan shooting his trademark hook shot graces the entrance of the Timberwolves' Target Center.

By Dean Hanley

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