George Mikan, Whose No. 99 Jersey Is Finally Being Retired, Once Coerced Bill Russell To Join The Lakers

Samir Mehdi
|Published October 30, 2022

George Mikan tried to get Bill Russell from high school and onto the Lakers but of course, Russell would instead go to the Celtics 

Often referred to as basketball’s first ever superstar, George Mikan was a force to be reckoned with in the early stages of the NBA. As said by Shaquille O’Neal, he was the first dominant big-man of the league. Everything from long strides to the hoop to hook shots well before Kareem, Mikan was skilled and tough. 

 He entered the NBA (known as the BAA in 19848-49) at the age of 24 and by the time he was 31 years age, he was forced to hang up the sneakers as he couldn’t keep up with the younger talent. At his peak, ‘Mr. Basketball’ put up 28.4 points and 14.1 rebounds a night all while leading the Minneapolis Lakers to 5 championships. 

By the time 1956 had rolled around, Mikan had already retired once from the game of basketball. After averaging close to 10 points a game in the ‘56 season, he called it a career. Coincidentally, 1956 saw another big-man enter the NBA that would revolutionize the sport.

Also read: When Bill Russell witnessed Wilt Chamberlain Manhandling One of Strongest Players of All-time

Bill Russell was recruited by George Mikan to be a Lakers star back in high school 

Bill Russell was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. Red Auerbach had his eyes on him all the way through but another was looking in his direction as well. This man was none other than George Mikan. 

According to Russell, Mikan approached him while he was still in high school and try to coerce him into becoming a Lakers player upon entering the NBA. This of course, never came to fruition as Russell was drafted by the Celtics and he stayed a Celtic until he retired, bringing them 11 championships in the process.

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He would then cheekily remark about how instead of becoming a Laker, he beat them 6 times in the NBA Playoffs en route to claiming his titles. 

George Mikan is having his jersey retired by the Lakers 

No.99 for the Lakers brought the franchise 5 championships in less than a decade. Despite this, the organization didn’t see it to be necessary to lift his jersey number into the rafters to retire. This was due to him being with the franchise when it was still in Minneapolis. 

However, what was unfair was that the Lakers claimed those 5 Minny chips as their own. So, why couldn’t they retire Mikan’s jersey? 

Well, nearly 2 decades following his passing, the Lakers are finally doing what’s right and retiring no. 99 forever in a pre-game ceremony before the Lakers-Nuggets game on Sunday, Oct 30th, 2022.

Also read: “Dennis Rodman is adequate, to compare him with Wilt and me is error”: Bill Russell downplayed Bulls legend’s historic rebounding run in 1990s

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About the author

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi is an NBA Editor at The Sportsrush. Ever since he was 13 years old, he’s been obsessed with the game of basketball. From watching Kobe Bryant’s highlights on YouTube to now, analyzing and breaking down every single game on League Pass, Samir’s passion for the game is unwavering. He's a complete basketball junkie who not only breaks down current games but also keenly watches ones from the 60s’ and 70s’ while also reading comprehensive books on the history of the league. Samir’s life revolves around basketball and he hopes that shows in his work. Aside from work, he loves to spend time in the gym and with his friends at social gatherings.

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