This is a note to Bill Bidwell, owner of the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals. For 43 years, I’ve felt and stated that you are the absolute worst owner of any pro sports franchise. You are not; I now have you in 3rd. place in that department. The two who top you are tied for 1st. place. They are Wayne Huizenga who dismantled his Florida Marlins after they won the 1997 World Series, and current Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria who is doing the very same thing to that championship team.
Win and improve your team where you need to, and try to extend your reign; that’s what I’d do as owner of a sports franchise. Not them! Win and commit Hari Kari is their motto. At least Arizona Cardinals fans will never have to concern themselves with the dismantling of their championship team, certainly not while Bill Bidwell owns them.
Story of the Week
The NBA’s first widely recognized superstar was George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers. This prototype center had a great degree of impact on the pro game by his very presence on the floor from 1947 to 1956.
It was Mikan who once caused the entire strategy of play to shift in drastic ways. Elaborate defensive schemes were designed to stop him. When all of these ploys failed, the men controlling basketball’s management were next forced to alter the rules shaping the game’s action.
Because the bulky and bespectacled 6-11 Mikan would set up under the basket and simply make lay-ups in an age of smaller players, teams first fouled him ruthlessly, then took to holding the ball and stalling the clock, thus keeping the ball out of Mikan’s hands. The 24-second shot clock in 1954 stopped this.
What is often forgotten by virtue of the fact that Mikan retired from the game 46 years ago is how good he really was. Also forgotten is how big a star he was in pro basketball, a long-struggling sport, and the three new leagues (NBL, BAA and NBA) he helped put squarely on the map. He was pro basketball’s one showcase talent, and was rightfully known as Mr. Basketball at the time.
Mikan’s moves were primitive by today’s standards, and perhaps would be easily defended in the modern era. He simply camped within four feet of the basket, elbowing defenders aside, waiting patiently for a lob pass that would lead to a score. (There were no slam-dunks in those days, and no three-second rule in the paint.) He was an unstoppable force, and with Mikan in the lineup, the Minneapolis Lakers were equally unstoppable.
Mikan’s career profile includes First-Team All-American status three straight years at DePaul University. As a pro, he averaged 22.6 points per game, very high for those days, and 9.5 rebounds per game, also a high mark for the era. He led the Lakers to four NBA championships.
The winning of team championships and individual scoring titles at an unprecedented rate, the unparalleled impact on the game, the magnetism of basketball’s first oversized one-man spectacle, all conspired to write a lasting legend. When the ballots were counted in 1950, George Mikan was named "The Greatest Basketball Player of the First Half-Century" in an unsurprising landslide.
As you would expect, George Mikan is in the Basketball Hall Of Fame.
Last Week’s Trivia
Babe Ruth hit 40 or more homers in seven consecutive seasons. Who is next with six? Alex Rodriguez did it in the 2003 season; the meter is still running.
Trivia Question of the Week
1967-68 saw the NHL expand from six to 12 teams. What two NHL teams played for the Stanley Cup in that first year of expansion, and why was the Cup series so unique that year? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.