Pioneered the next era of greatness.
After a standout career at DePaul University -- where he led the nation in scoring twice and was a three-time All-American -- he signed with the National Basketball League's Chicago American Gears after his senior year. The league would fold after his first season and his rights were awarded via lottery to the Minneapolis Lakers in 1948.
Mikan would become the NBA’s first superstar, leading the league in scoring his first three years. The MVP award, however, did not exist at the time. Counting his season with the Gears and a championship won with the Lakers in the old NBL, Mikan captured titles seven times in eight pro seasons.
Mikan’s presence was just as prominent off the court. He served as an ambassador for the league, frequently arriving to road arenas early to promote games. He was often featured on magazines and had a host of endorsement deals for a wide range of products.
Mikan featured a deadly hook shot, one that most believed served as a precursor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famed sky hook. Mikan’s agility and skill level paved the way for centers and forwards to carve out featured roles on offense after initially being seen solely as defensive players.
Though his career lasted just seven professional seasons, Mikan continued to impact the game after retirement. He became the first commissioner of the ABA, instituting ground-breaking innovations such as the iconic red-white-and-blue ABA ball and the 3-point line.
Mikan was also tasked with helping bring basketball back to Minneapolis after the Lakers left for Los Angeles. He was part of a team that bid on what would ultimately become the Timberwolves, which began playing in Minnesota in 1989.