The NBA has always been occupied with various dynasties, teams who are the embodiment of success for periods of time, and always changes throughout the years. This holds true especially for the early years of the NBA, where dynasties ruled supreme over all others. And with every dynasty, there is always a front man, someone who looms large and is the most celebrated for a team’s success.
How many rings did George Mikan win? George Mikan won 7 championships with the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers at the time were bouncing around various professional basketball leagues: Mikan’s first two titles came when the Lakers were in the National Basketball League (NBL). He won one title in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) league, and 4 titles in the NBA. Only 5 of Mikan’s championships are counted by the NBA, since they do not particularly acknowledge NBL records and accolades as their own, only BAA records.
What was George Mikan’s career like?
George Mikan was drafted by the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1946. Mikan was coming from a dominant collegiate career with DePaul University, and carried over his strong play with the American Gears. The American Gears folded after his first year, which is when Mikan joined the Minneapolis Lakers. Mikan became just as dominant in the NBA as he was in college, if not more, once he joined the Lakers. In his 2 seasons in the NBL, Mikan won 2 titles (1947 and 1948) as well as the MVP award in 1947, among other accolades.
The Lakers, along with a few other NBL teams, ended up joining the Basketball Association of America in 1948, and Mikan won his first BAA title that year too. The following 1949-1950 season saw the BAA and the remaining NBL teams merge to become the National Basketball Association (NBA). Mikan and his Lakers also won the inaugural NBA championship, and then another 3 in 1952, 1953, and 1954 respectively (the NBA’s first three-peat). Mikan collected a number of accomplishments and records alongside his titles, including 6 All-NBA First Teams, 4 All-Star Game appearances, 3 scoring titles, and 1 rebounding title. Mikan averaged 23.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game throughout his NBA career.
What legacy did Mikan leave behind?
George Mikan was the first real superstar the NBA ever saw. At the time, basketball was still a sport for relatively smaller players, but Mikan showed how dominant a “big man” could be. While he had great size and athleticism, he was also very skilled. Mikan was considered ambidextrous with the way he could score with two hands, and gave birth to the Mikan drill, still used to this day by players around the world. He had great footwork and was very nimble, but was also very lethal in the paint offensively and defensively. He has been an idol to many great centers, such as Shaquille O’Neal, who credit him for showing how big men can dominate the game.
Because of Mikan’s revolutionary style of play, he also changed the way the game was played in the NBA. For example, in order to deter Mikan’s dominance, the width of the paint was changed from 6 feet to 12 feet (known as the Mikan rule) so that he had to play further from the basket, and also introduced defensive goaltending since Mikan was blocking many shots. Mikan is also central to the introduction of the shot clock, after an opposing famously held on to the ball as long as they could so that Mikan couldn’t get possession and score.
Mikan also had an impact on the NBA even after he stopped playing. Mikan was an official in the American Basketball Association (ABA), where he created the 3-point line as an advantage for shorter players. When the ABA merged with the NBA, the 3-point line was implemented as well, which has truly changed the game. Mikan was also instrumental in bringing a professional team to Minneapolis after the Lakers left, and was rewarded with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Mikan also fought for early NBA players to receive better retirement benefits, a dream which was realized just this past year (although Mikan passed away well before).
Why do only 5 of Mikan’s rings count?
While all of Mikan’s 7 rings came with the Minneapolis Lakers, only 5 are counted in NBA history. That is because in 1947 and 1948, the years where Mikan’s Lakers won the title, they were playing in the NBL, which was a separate league from the BAA. The BAA and the NBL merged in 1949 to create the NBA. The NBA only formally recognizes the BAA as part of its history; it does not acknowledge the NBL or its records and statistics, but rather acknowledges the 1949 merger as an expansion. Therefore, the first two titles Mikan won were NBL titles and not counted as a part of NBA history. It is important to note that Mikan did win the 1949 BAA title, therefore that is counted in NBA history.
Who has the most NBA rings?
The legendary Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics has the most rings in NBA history, with an astounding 11 rings. Bill Russell was one of Mikan’s immediate successors in terms of being a dominant big, especially on the defensive end, so much so that Russell considered Mikan one of his biggest childhood heroes (Mikan likewise praised Russell for his obvious talent at the collegiate level).
George Mikan was a truly dominant and impactful player in the early days of professional basketball. He won titles in all 3 leagues (the NBL, the BAA, and the NBA), amounting to a total of 7 rings in 9 years of professional basketball (even though only 5 technically count in the eyes of the NBA). His legacy extended way beyond his playing days, and is still felt throughout the world. It is truly a deserving honor for Mikan to be remembered as the first superstar of basketball.