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Lakers Moments: George Mikan towers above the rest

May 5, 2011 |  3:00 pm

Maiken Big guy: Lakers center George Mikan, former DePaul University basketball star, in 1950.

At 6-foot-10 in a sport then dominated by much smaller men, Mikan was the prototype for the dominating tall players of later decades. Towering over most of his competitors, he was one of the most effective scorers of his day, averaging 22.6 points over a professional career that lasted nine seasons -- one with the Chicago American Gears and eight with the Minneapolis Lakers.

He was so dominant that the NBA made two big rules changes during his career. It tried to make it more difficult for him to score by expanding the width of the key from six feet to 12 feet, and it instituted the 24-second clock after a game in 1950 in which the Fort Wayne Pistons decided that the only way they could win was to hold on to the ball and not let the Lakers have it. They ended up winning, 19-18, in the lowest-scoring game in NBA history.

Mikan led the Lakers to three consecutive titles from 1952 through 1954 (which gave them five titles in six seasons), yet stunned the team by announcing his retirement after the 1954 championship run.

"I had a family growing, and I decided that I wanted to be with them," he said. "I felt it was time to get started with the professional world outside of basketball."

Read more about George Mikan and where he ranks for the team's career points in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times' interactive database of all things purple and gold.

Join the Lakers at L.A. Times Facebook page.

-- Houston Mitchell

Photo credit: Associated Press