Sneaker History: A giant among men

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Ever heard of the Mikan drill? Most players practise this exercise to learn how to score the basketball. It originates from one of the first superstars in the NBA, George Mikan. Born in June 1924, Mikan didn't start out as the star he would become. He was a mediocre player in high school with his slow and awkward movements. His coach even told him he couldn't play basketball with glasses. Luckily this didn't stop him. A few years later, he attended DePaul University where coach Ray Meyer turned him into a good ball player with exercises like dance lessons, boxing and rope jumping. With his developed skills and height, he could easily score the basketball. Mikan was also a great defensive player because the players weren't that tall in the 1940's. He eventually joined the pro's in 1946/47 where he led the Chicago American Gears to a World Basketball Title in his rookie pro season. When the team got pulled out of the league, Mikan joined the Minneapolis Lakers (Now the Los Angeles Lakers). He became a huge superstar there and guided the Lakers to 5 titles.

Due to his rising popularity, Mikan got offered a lot of endorsements. His most famous endorsement was with the shoe company Pro-Keds. The company was founded in 1916 like other footwear enterprises of that time. They were the shoe manufacturer from a division of a brand for tyres, the United States Rubber Company. Tyres and sports footwear were both made of rubber, so basketball shoes seemed a great product, so the company set up Pro-Keds in 1949 just for sports shoes. The canvas shoes became one of the standard shoes to wear in basketball. Their first shoe and the one Mikan played in was the Royal, a canvas-based shoe in low- and high-top versions, with apart from the blue and red midsole stripes, looked very similar to the Converse All Star.

The shoe was an enormous hit due to Mikan's popularity. Especially during the time that Mikan won his titles with the Lakers. Mikan went on to change the game of basketball. Because of his dominance, the league introduced the 24 seconds rule. This came after a Lakers versus the Pistons game where the Pistons decided that the only way to win was to pass the ball when they had the lead. This ended in a Pistons victory of 19-18. Mikan scored 15 of the 18 Lakers points. He was able to have the highest percentage of points from a team total with 83.3 percent. He also created 'The Mikan Rule'. The rule meant that defensive players were only allowed to stand in the bucket for three seconds. This also widened the bucket from 6 feet to 12 feet. The last rule he created was the goaltending rule because he would easily swat the ball away from the basket due to his height.

Pro-Keds became one of the biggest basketball footwear brands in the next years. They were associated with the greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lou Hudson, Willis Reed, Jo Jo White, Nate Archibald and Bon love. A lot of these players played in New York which made the shoe a cultural icon in the 70's. The 69er model would become one of their most famous shoes, people in the Bronx and Harlem would wear them, earning the nickname 'uptowns', and when hip-hop icons like the Rock Steady Crew and Afrika Bambaataa started wearing them, they became larger than life in the New York culture.

Mikan was a real pioneer of the game. He was the first great superstar and got a lot of endorsements for it. He was associated with every brand Mikan promoted, something that is regular for players of this day and age. A real giant of the game.

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