"This community," says Bud Grant, "is very, very proud of George Mikan."
Mikan and his son Larry are entertaining at Yvette's, a posh and popular Minneapolis restaurant on the banks of the Mississippi River. Larry, 41, is 6'7" and a former University of Minnesota basketball star who played some in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Heads swerve as the father-son Brobdingnagians enter the darkened restaurant. Mikan maintains a sober demeanor, but Larry, who is divorced, is very much the man about town, and he strides confidently to one of the best tables in the house. Then he listens closely as his father speaks.
"I guess I've done just about everything in life people told me I wasn't able to do," Mikan says. "I respond pretty well to somebody telling me there's something I can't do. I started wearing glasses when I was 12, and people told me then that anyone who wore glasses could never be a great athlete. And I always took a lot of taunts because I was so big. I was always being challenged as a kid, but I grew stronger, and [the taunts] stopped pretty fast. In college they laughed and said I'd trip over the foul line. After a while, that stopped too. I guess you could say I've always had a burning desire to be successful. I still do."
"Dad is still a legend around here," says Larry, flagging down a waiter. "And he's been a wonderful father to his six kids."
"Now that touches me," says Mikan. "And I'll tell Mom what you said. It's true, I suppose, that I can't go anywhere in this town without somebody coming up to me and saying they know who I am. Some of the younger ones will even say, 'I never saw you play, but I know you were great.' After all these years, I find it flattering. I still get from 20 to 25 autograph requests in the mail every week. Hell, everybody likes to be recognized. At the same time, this Timberwolves thing makes me think you're never really a hero in your own town. I just want to have a meaningful role with them."
He pauses, smiles at his son and says finally, "But I don't want to belabor that point. We've heard enough about that. Let's eat. I've got a big day tomorrow."