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The First Hoops Superstar

Basketball legend George Mikan, the dominant basketball player of the NBA's early years, has passed away at age 80. He was literally a local hero, growing up in Crest Hill and starring at Joliet Township High before moving on to DePaul where he lead the Blue Demons to the 1945 NIT championship. He went on to a stellar pro career with the Minneapolis Lakers, with the Associated Press naming him the best basketball player of the first half of the 20th century. He dominated the game to such an extent that he directly caused three innovations: the widening of the three-second lane (which didn't stop him; he had a 61 point game under the first season of the wider lane); the 24-second shot clock and the goaltending rule.

That marquee at the Madison Square Garden in the photo above says it all: "Geo Mikan Vs. Knicks."

But by all accounts he was a humble, gracious man. This item, related today by the Joliet Herald-News, is particularly telling:

But despite the many accolades, Mikan in his later years considered his 2003 induction into the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame to be his greatest honor.

"He told me, 'It's really nice to be remembered by your friends, even though I don't live in the area any longer,'" said Joe Mikan, his nephew and the former Will County executive.

His son Terry summed him up quite fondly.

"I've got one word that describes my dad, and that's kindness," Terry Mikan said. "Whenever he would make a toast at a family function, dad would ask us to raise our glass to kindness, and that's the type of man he was."

June 3, 2005 in Joliet, Sports | Permalink

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