Mikan was born in Joliet, Illinois and played his college basketball at DePaul University (1941-45). He began playing professional basketball with Chicago Gears of the National Basketball League, when that team folded he signed with the Minneapolis Lakers, the Lakers joined the National Basketball Association in 1948. Mikan was one of the most dominate players in the early years of the NBA.
Mikan scored 11,764 points (22.6 ppg) in nine pro seasons, best in league history when he retired. He led the league in scoring six times ([-1952), including a career-high 28.4 ppg in 1951. He led the league in rebounding in 1953 (1,007, 14.4 rpg) and in rebounding average (1952, 13.5 rpg).Annually, he was one of the league leaders in free throw attempts (4,597) for a career.
Mikan and the Lakers won 5 league championships during his playing days. He retired after the 1953-1954 season, but returned briefly in 1955-1956 season. He also coached the team in 1957-1958. In later years Mikan was the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association, he introduced the league's trademark Red White and Blue basketball.
Mikan suffers from diabetes which resulted in one of his legs being removed in the late 1990s. The Minnesota Timberwolves honored Mikan by placing a statue of him from his playing days in the lobby of the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mikan is in the basketball hall of fame and was named one of the league's 50 greatest players in 1996.