One would think the greatest player of his generation, the first Lakers superstar, a pioneer who revolutionized the sport and the man nicknamed “Mr. Basketball” was the perfect choice to fill those giant high tops of John Kundla. Well, not exactly. Mikan’s tenure lasted only half of a season and his .231 winning percentage is the worst in franchise history. The Lakers were a dismal 9-30 when Mikan was relieved by Kundla, who finished out the 1957-58 campaign—the first time the Lakers missed the playoffs.
Mikan was the dominant force in the National Basketball League and the Basketball Assn. of America, which merged to form the NBA in 1949. The 6’ 10” center from DePaul was a member of the first four NBA All-Star teams and won a combined seven NBL, BAA and NBA titles. He was voted the greatest player of the first half century (1950) and was named to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list in 1996. He averaged a career-best 28.4 points per game in 1950-51.
Mikan retired after leading the Lakers to their third straight championship in 1954 but made a brief comeback in 1955-56, appearing in 37 games before retiring for good at the end of the season. He was one of the initial inductees into the Hall of Fame in 1959. Mikan was the Republican candidate for the United States Congress in Minnesota’s 3rd congressional district in 1956, losing a close vote to incumbent Representative Roy Wier. He focused on his law career until 1967, when he became the first commissioner of the ABA and introduced the three-point line into the game in an effort to generate more excitement in the game.
His coaching stint was one to forget, but Mikan is a Laker legend whose career is one to remember.