Patrick Mikan Still Sees His Father's Legacy At Target Center

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Patrick Mikan can paint a picture of his father, legendary Minneapolis Lakers center George Mikan, with words better than any old-time NBA video can portray.

His eyes light up when he describes his father’s style of play—a larger than life persona in the paint whose aggressiveness and love for the game made him nearly unstoppable during the Lakers’ five championships in the 1940s and 1950s. George Mikan broke his fair share of opponents’ noses during his career—including his brother’s during a collegiate game with DePaul—and was about as competitive an athlete as you’ll find.

But off the court, Patrick paints as eloquent a picture as anyone as to why George Mikan has become one of the most beloved and endeared players in basketball history. He was a champion, a Hall of Famer and an ambassador for the game.

But to Patrick, he was simply dad.

“He was such a good man, and I always looked at him as just dad,” Patrick said. “And then all of a sudden all the outpouring of love shown toward him. Even today, people came up to me and said I knew your dad. That hits you, hard.”

Patrick, now 60 and living in Los Angeles, was back in his home state on Sunday for the Timberwolves’ game against the Golden State Warriors. He took in the game with his publicist and lifelong friend Barry Lundgren, Barry’s wife Karen and their two children, Kari and Erik Lundgren—both of whom are Patrick’s godchildren—during an emotional return to Target Center. It was during Sunday’s pregame that Patrick saw the nine-foot bronze statue of his father in the arena’s lobby since George’s memorial in 2005.

Stories of his father’s days on the court, his impact on the game and his love for Minnesota poured out during the hour leading up to tipoff.

Patrick spent much of his childhood behind the scenes of an NBA lifestyle. While most kids watch games from their seats in the arena or on television at home, Patrick was traveling around the country meeting some of the game’s greatest players.

Wilt Chamberlain used to stay with the Mikans and drive George’s Cadillac. He saw Red Auerbach smoke his iconic victory cigar, and in later years he witnessed some of the greatest players of the past 25 years like Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley stop in for visits or take his father out to lunch.

“That tells you there is something special about my father,” Patrick said. “And it’s not just basketball.”

That type of impact on the game will forever be linked with George Mikan, and Minnesota will forever be the epicenter of his legacy. It was in Minneapolis that he led the Lakers to dynasty stature in the league’s early days, and in the ensuing years he helped bring the American Basketball Association’s league offices to Minnesota and helped lead a task force that brought the Timberwolves into existence in the late 1980s.

Patrick will tell you his father’s motto was “Once a Laker, always a Laker,” but when it comes down to it Minnesota will forever be the Mikans’ home.

“My dad’s greatest contribution was his zest and his zeal for the state of Minnesota,” Patrick said. “He really enjoyed not only playing here obviously but the way he was treated, and I think the adoration of the fans. I was young, but I remember when he’d come home and how excited he was about being a Laker and about representing the state.”

This season, basketball in his home state was revived through the leadership of Wolves coach Rick Adelman, the flashy play of Ricky Rubio and the ever-evolving game of Kevin Love. Patrick said George would enjoy watching Love play because of his diverse skills.

“What he’d think of the Timberwolves is he’d like their style of play and he’d like Kevin Love because he’s like (6-foot-10) and he’s a very versatile player,” Patrick said. “I think he’d really associate with that. And I think my dad would really be happy to see the Timberwolves and where they’ve come to.”

But his trip to Target Center was more than just a night at a basketball game.

Coming back on Sunday took him back to his youth when he and his five siblings grew up as Mikan children during the height of their father’s popularity. Seeing that statue, which was dedicated in 2001, was one of the highlights of his return to his home state.

It brought back the memories of playing ball outside the house, putting on George’s uniform at home and the piles of tennis shoes and basketballs sitting by the door.

When Patrick stood next to the George Mikan statue in the Target Center lobby, wearing the thick glasses so widely associated with his father, you could see all those memories coming back.

“That’s what’s so exciting,” Patrick said. “And it makes me as his son proud.”

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