George Mikan (search), professional basketball's first dominant big man who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, has died, family members said Thursday. He was 80.
Six-foot-10 with thick glasses, Mikan was so effective as a center at DePaul that he forced the NCAA to adopt the goaltending rule.
Mikan had suffered from diabetes and kidney failure. One leg was amputated several years ago, and he recently was hospitalized for six weeks for treatment of a diabetes wound in the other leg. He also underwent kidney dialysis three days a week.
Last Saturday, he was moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center, his son, Terry, said. He died Wednesday night, according to family members.
Mikan's Lakers won five of the first six NBA (search) titles after the league was formed in 1948. He averaged 23.1 points per game in seven seasons with Minneapolis before retiring because of injuries in 1956. Mikan was the league's MVP in its inaugural 1948-49 season, when he averaged 28.3 points in leading the Lakers to the NBA title.
A statue was erected in honor of the NBA Hall of Famer outside the Target Center in Minneapolis.
In recent years, Mikan has spoke out against the small pensions given to those who played in the league before 1965. Terry Mikan said most of his father's awards and memorabilia had been sold. Mikan received a monthly pension check of $1,000, his son said.