June 2, 2005
Sad news from the world of basketball legendary big man George Mikan has died at the age of 80.
It's too bad that none of the young kids today got to see Mikan operate in the low post. The Hall of Famer was really special, and he got great post position. He was so effective in the low-post area, an aspect of the game that has almost disappeared these days.
Mikan impacted the sport further as commissioner of the ABA.
When you look across the nation today, kids who are 6-9, 6-10 and 6-11 don't go down low anymore, instead preferring to handle the rock and play on the perimeter.
Mikan set a trend with the hook shot. I remember when I was coaching high school in New Jersey in the 1960s, and we taught Mikan's baby hook shot. We used a drill called The Mikan Drill, in which a player took that baby hook shot repetitively with the right and left hands to develop coordination. It also developed moves on the interior.
You don't see the baby hook much anymore. It's a shame because it's so difficult to defend and block. Mikan utilized his body so well when using that weapon inside. He had a feathery touch, and that shot was almost impossible to defend.
Mikan was a superstar at DePaul and then in the NBA.
At DePaul, he was on the 1942-43 Blue Demons team that made the Final Four. In the NBA, he was the league's first-ever MVP in the league's first season (1948-49), when he averaged 28.3 points per game to lead the then-Minneapolis Lakers to the first of their five NBA championships during his career.
Mikan played until injuries led to his retirement during the 1955-56 campaign. Later, he impacted the sport further as commissioner of the ABA.
I watched Mikan play as I was growing up. I'll always remember the Lakers with Mikan, Vern Mikkelsen and Jim Pollard. Later, as a teacher and a coach, I used The Mikan Drill.
My sympathy goes out to the Mikan family. George Mikan was truly one of the legendary greats as he graced the NCAA and NBA hardwood.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.