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As a teenager, George Mikan was cut from the freshman basketball team at his high school and told that he would never play basketball because he wore glasses and because he was too awkward.

The 6-foot-10 Mikan, who grew up in Joliet, Ill., went on to revolutionize basketball and become the first superstar of the NBA.

Mikan was a three-time All-America during his college career at DePaul. After leading DePaul to the National Invitational Tournament title in 1945, he began his professional career in 1946 with the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League (NBL). Mikan and the American Gears won the NBL title in 1947 and started the 1947-48 season with eight consecutive victories. But the league folded three weeks into the season, and Mikan's rights were awarded to the Minneapolis Lakers in a lottery.

Mikan made his debut with the Lakers on Nov. 23, 1947, scoring 24 points in the Lakers' 67-56 victory over the Indianapolis Kautskys. Over the next seven seasons, Mikan helped the Lakers win six league titles and become the NBA's first dynasty. In 1950 he was named the outstanding basketball player of the first 50 years of the 20th century.

He was named to the NBA's 25th and 35th anniversary teams and in 1996 he was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

"George changed the game," Bud Grant, who was a Lakers teammate of Mikan's for two years before embarking on a football coaching career, told "I have played with and coached many great players. But I'd have to say that George Mikan is the greatest competitor I've ever seen or been around in any sport."

Following his playing career, he was the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association and later led the efforts to bring the NBA back to Minnesota. Those efforts were rewarded when the Minnesota Timberwolves joined the NBA in 1989.


Class: 1958.

Sport: Basketball.

Team: Minneapolis Lakers.