Posts Tagged ‘Madison Square Garden’

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More than any other professional team sport in America, the NBA has maintained a symbiotic relationship with its stars. The NBA–or “The League”, as it’s known by many–has been widely recognized as a star-driven league.

Whether you’re a fan of the NBA, or just a casual observer, you can’t help but to identify the National Basketball Association with some of the greatest and entertaining players to ever have earned an NBA paycheck.  Just in case you’re wondering about how long this star-driven system has been in place, we have to re-visit the early days of the pro basketball league.

I’m sure you’ve heard of an NBA franchise by the name of the Los Angeles Lakersright? Well, they haven’t always resided in Southern California, nor was their first championship won there either. Before the Lakers relocated to L.A. in 1960, they won an impressive five championships in their former home, Minneapolis. As expected, most great sports teams have that “anchor” on their team; that one person who is the heart and soul of their campaign to become champions in their respective league/sport. The then-Minneapolis Lakers had that type of player, and his name was George Mikan.

Mikan made a brief comback as a Minneapolis Laker in this 1995 ESPN Sportscenter commercial.

After an illustrious college career at DePaul University in Chicago, the 6’10” Mikan was known for his dominance as a Laker, yet he first signed with the Chicago American Gears of the NBL (National Basketball League), which eventually became the NBA. It was two years after his signing with the Gears in 1946, that he would join the Lakers for the 1947-48 season. When it came to dominant players at that time, no one in the league was on Mikan’s level of play. Like players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in latter years, it was Mikan’s dominance that forced the NBA to change some of its rules to even the playing field for other players to have the opportunity to compete.

Long before the regularity of the NBA’s marketing of a celebrated few players handpicked every year to be the faces of the league, George Mikan was that guy to do so by himself.  If Mikan’s star power were ever in question, then any doubts would be refuted in the following story: On December 14, 1949, his teammates arrived at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and were met with a surprise.

On the marquee (sign outside of the building) they had ‘George Mikan vs. the Knicks,” recalled the NBA legend, whose teammates ribbed him by refusing to dress for the game. “They were all just sitting around. They said, ‘Alright big guy, if you’re going to play them, go play them.

With the NBA still crawling through its years of infancy at the time, such a sight was unheard of, yet it appeared that the marketing team of Madison Square Garden understood what a larger-than-life figure George Mikan had become back then. Needless to say, Mikan went on to play until 1956, ending a career that saw him become a hall-of-famer, one of the NBA’s “50 Greatest” players (as of 1996), and the reputation of being the “that dude” on his team. If Mikan were a star today, let’s just say that his jersey would be on sale, and he’d possibly even have his own sneaker.

Now that’s star power.

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Here we are. We’ve arrived at yet another NBA All-Star Weekend, which is held in New York City this year, and the league’s 30 teams will be represented in some capacity during the weekend-long extravaganza which includes highly entertaining events such as the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest…and let’s not forget about the actual game itself, which will be played tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.

Below is a video that features the highlights of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, which means that this post has been updated for your viewing pleasure.

For hoops enthusiasts such as myself, and many others around the globe, NBA All-Star Weekend marks the true beginning of basketball season. You’re probably assuming that basketball season starts in late October/early November (It does on paper), but the sports world doesn’t focus the majority of its attention on the sport until February. With the Super Bowl marking the official end of football season, Major League Baseball still several weeks from starting training camps, combined with both high school and collegiate basketball jockeying for position in their postseason tournaments, it’s a safe bet to note that February is the true beginning of basketball season.

With the exception of soccer, there are no other team sports as popular–and widely played–as basketball. The sport exudes an electricity and suspense that none of the other team sports do. NBA All-Star Weekend shows why this is true.

The other day, a good friend of mine asked me who would win between any of the NBA All-Star teams, and the USA Olympic hoops squads, and I’d have to go with the All-Star teams every time. From top to bottom, the All-Star teams feature battle tested newbies and vets who have put in the time to prove themselves worthy of NBA All-Stardom, and the Olympic basketball teams sometimes allow the college standout player (who at the time hasn’t logged one minute in NBA play)  to sneak in to claim a spot on the team. This isn’t meant to put down the youngsters who have the opportunity to compete internationally, but I’m just giving my two cents.

From February until June, sports fans are bombarded with exciting basketball. This includes All Star Weekend, March Madness, your local high school basketball tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and the NBA Finals.

I’ll be like the millions of other hoops junkies around the world, kicking back and enjoying the events of All-Star Weekend in addition to watching the competition heat up over the next several months as basketball teams on every level fight to claim the right to be called CHAMPION.