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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Basketball loses a legend


The Original Man in the Middle

I had just written about George Mikan's financial woes last month. Yesterday, the first dominant big man passed away at the age of 80. Mikan's influence on the game is as impressive as the five titles he won. Before Wilt and Shaq, Mikan was the first player to force major rule changes in basketball. His dominant play brought on the goaltending rule and an expansion of the painted area. As ABA commissioner, he was also partly responsible for the advent of the 3-point line.

Mikan's passing is also a reminder of how young a sport basketball is and how quickly the sport has evolved. Take baseball, its icons like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb passed away decades ago. Looking back on last night's Suns/Spurs game, it's amazing how quickly we have gone from the roots of the game to having someone like Amare Stoudemire (that baseline dunk in the 4th had me dumb-founded). But much like Amare today, Mikan also had people shaking their heads in disbelief.

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