From Publishers Weekly
Schumacher (Family Business
) explores the on-court life and legacy of George Mikan, the big man who revolutionized both college and professional basketball as a dominant center in the '40s and '50s and as the American Basketball Association's first commissioner in the 1960s. Several rules in the modern game were enacted to offset 6'10 Mikan's uncommon height advantage at the time: his shot-blocking ability for DePaul University led to the goaltending rule in college basketball in 1943, and his rebounding and scoring for the Minneapolis Lakers prompted the nascent NBA to widen the free-throw lane from six feet to 12 feet in 1951. Wilt Chamberlain described Mikan as the first true superstar of the league, and Shaquille O'Neal, who paid for Mikan's funeral when he died in 2005 in dire financial straits due to the expenses of his health problems, said, Without George Mikan, there is no me. A native of Joliet, Ill., Mikan was from a Croatian family and remained a true Midwesterner to the end, Schumacher writes. Schumacher's narrative sometimes gets bogged down with tedious, almost box score–like itemizing of the numerous games from Mikan's college and pro careers. Recounting these games in such specifics will be of interest to hardcore fans of the early pro game, but it does little to shed light on the man off the basketball court. (Nov.)
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Mikan was basketball's first great big man. At nearly seven feet, he came to the nation's attention in the 1940s as an awkward behemoth at Chicago's DePaul University. But through hard work under the tutelage of coach Ray Meyer, he became the dominant collegiate player of his era and subsequently went on to star for the Minneapolis Lakers of the fledgling NBA. Beyond his size and basketball ability, Mikan was a regular guy, a stereotypical midwesternerfamily man, married for 58 years. Biographies of regular guys can be a bit bland, so Schumacher wisely blends Mikan's story with a history of the rough-and-tumble infancy of professional basketball. In those early days, the one player capable of filling the stands was Mikan, and it was on his broad back that the league began to establish itself. Research included dozens of interviews with family, teammates, coaches, and friends as well as voluminous secondary sources. Although it's an excellent source of information on an early superstar, the real value of this volume is as a guide to the NBA's nascent years. Lukowsky, Wes