"James, I'm your new commissioner," answered Mikan.
"God bless you," said Jimmy Ware.
When Mikan showed up at the meeting room in the St. Regis, he was surrounded by owners anxious to congratulate him and be photographed shaking his hand. Some of them, like Rubin, barely came up to his tie clasp. Mikan also stood tall at the subsequent press conference, which would have been a public relations fiasco without him.
The extravaganza was staged at the Hotel Carlyle, Harry Truman's and the Kennedys' favorite in New York and thus a logical choice for image-conscious Connie Seredin. The room was too small and was cluttered by nonnewsmen, and some of the young owners, most notably President Davidson, 32, clearly had had little experience talking to the press. The announcement was made for television cameras while newspapermen unhappily waited for their chance behind the hot lights. Some announcers returned the favor by being downright nasty. One of them cornered Mark Binstein of the New York franchise, could not elicit any straight answers about raiding the NBA and finally snarled, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." A TV cameraman felt it was his right to walk out with one of the new basketballs used for decoration and was indignant when a Pittsburgh owner would not give it up. The atmosphere was so hostile that one owner said, "I'm going to get a pad and pencil and pretend to be writing so I can get out of here alive!"
Things became saner when the floodlights dimmed and TV went home. After two or three false starts, a press conference got started in an adjoining room and Mikan was impressive despite being just a few hours on the job. His answers were straight and reasonably complete. He said there would be no raids on the NBA, but "we hope, of course, that some big stars and others will be in a position to come to us; if they are free, we want to talk to them."
Thus, a league was born—a divine package of community-penetration concepts and national-media contact, not to mention consumer preference. With George Mikan's help, perhaps the package will contain basketball players and profits, too.