(Note: there will be a regular column tomorrow on the baseball draft. I'm still researching it. In the meantime, I present this recent essay from Spur of the Moment)
(Originally posted June 3, 2005)
What the league and the PA owe Mikan’s colleagues
Its nice to hear Kevin Garnett talk about the late George Mikan as “The Original Big Man”
Its nice to hear Shaquille O’Neal say that “Without 99, there is no me” and offer to pay the cost of Mikan’s funeral.
It’s nice to hear Jerry Buss, the owner of the current Laker franchise, talk about how the Lakers would be nothing without Mikan.
After all, without George Mikan there is no Russell, Wilt, Kareem or Shaq. Without Mikan, there is no Reggie Miller, who benefitted from Mikan’s 3-point line concept.
In a way, the Spurs also owe a debt of gratitude to Mikan, and not just for Tim Duncan’s post moves. As the first ABA commissioner, he had the foresight to put a basketball team in the state of Texas in 1967, back when the only 2 sports seasons were football and spring football practice. That franchise eventually moved from Dallas to San Antonio and became the Spurs.
More importantly, without Mikan and the generation of NBA players who played with him, there are no shoe endorsements, no filled 20,000 seat arenas with luxury boxes, no million dollar television deals for basketball, and no place in the public eye for NBA stars.
Which makes what the NBA and the Players Association have done to Mikan and other league pioneers over the years rather sad. Mikan’s pension was $1,700 a month ($20,400 over the course of a year). He had to sell off his trophies to pay for his diabetes care, which makes you wonder what those of Mikan’s generation, most of whom don’t have MVP trophies to sell, have done to survive.
Mikan may be gone now, but there’s no excuse for the League and it’s players to shortchange the others of his time, on whom the league’s billion dollar empire was built, and on whom the players of today are corporations unto themselves.
Don’t tell me the money isn’t there. If the owners can find the money to buy new arenas, and the players can afford to buy new Escalades, surely both sides can raise the pension for players who retired before 1966.
Tomorrow: Baseball Draft