This is a guest contribution by Ryan Krueger of investment advisory firm Krueger & Catalano. The article originally appeared on the Krueger & Catalano site here. The best way to keep up with Ryan is on Twitter.
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George Mikan was the very first superstar of the NBA. He was the key to the league even surviving before it could thrive. Making him one of the most underappreciated athletes of all-time. Maybe because he was not athletic at all. His go-to move can best explain how to shoot a high percentage in the Stock Market as well, always has, but it has become equally under-utilized.
So, let’s dust off some old clips and head to the film room. I will even step out just a bit from his sweet spot, and share a long range belief that both leagues of deep shots and stocks are now overrun with analytics and perfectly set up to be revolutionized once again – with informed simplicity.
In both the NBA and Stock Market, I think the old fashioned Two-Pointers are now wonderfully un-crowded.
Stick with me for this beautifully boring, with no room for algorithms, idea I had while comparing almost 80 years of shot and stock charts next to each other. In doing so, I even confronted my own severe bias towards analytics. My college athlete interns giggle and call me a high level mathlete for a reason. I have openly praised Daryl Morey before most knew who he was. But like all brilliant ideas in the world of capitalism, they attract a crowd. I hate crowds. So, I wondered if there was a spot on the court and Stock Market with a little more elbow room.
In August 1949 the NBA was born. A merger between the small towns in the National Basketball League and big cities from the Basketball Association of America was agreed upon at the Empire State Building in New York. Seventeen teams made up the new NBA. But, the league was in trouble from the start. Fan support kept shrinking and in a few years they were down to only 8 teams with bankruptcies and empty arenas all over.
Still scarred by the Great Depression, a generation of investors stayed away from the Stock Market at this time. It took until 1954 for the Dow Jones to recover back to its previous peak in 1929. Long periods of going absolutely nowhere are much more common in Stock Market history than most bulls or bears recognize. Not good for business for either camp I suppose.
“New high” makes a better headline than “back to where it was a few decades ago.” But they can both mean the exact same number. A distrust for banks and Wall Street led to the Glass Steagall Act after the Stock Market crashed. A very small number of Americans were common stock shareholders at this time.
When I was a kid, the very first basketball shot you ever learned was called the Mikan drill. I never heard the part when George was cut from his high school basketball team.
Openly described as too awkward, the coach told him, “You just can’t play basketball with glasses on, you better turn in your uniform.” George wanted to keep playing so he went to the YMCA where he promptly broke his leg so badly after stepping on a ball, that he could not walk for a year. Hobbled, George decided to become a priest instead. He enrolled at Chicago’s Quigley Prep Seminary as a sophomore and gave up on basketball.
This is the guy that saved the NBA? Let us all keep this part in mind next time we think saving a little more for retirement sounds daunting.
Priesthood did not work out either. Now enrolled in college and unable to tell his family about changing direction, his father only learned that he must have picked up a basketball again when he read in the newspaper about a “…Mikan kid on DePaul’s team.” Coach Ray Meyer invested time in his footwork to combat how awkward he was. He told George to even work at it during school dances by finding the shortest girls. George recalled, “He figured that would force me to improve my footwork, otherwise I’d step on them and hurt them.”
George tweaked one of Meyer’s drills and developed his own simple routine. He took the ball directly under the basket and with one step learned how to lay it in with his right hand, jumping off his left foot. Catch it from the net with both hands. Then, one step to lay it in with the left hand, jumping off the right foot. Over and over, both the hands and feet learning the basic recipes for scoring anywhere close to the basket from any angle. George made three hundred of these 2-foot baskets per session. The Mikan Drill was born.
All of those two-pointers from point blank range led DePaul to the national championship. George set a Madison Square Garden record with 53 points in the semi-final game.
The year the NBA was born the Minneapolis Lakers took Mikan and won the championship. To try and help take away Mikan’s short 2’s the league widened the lane from six to twelve feet, known as the “Mikan Rule.” The league even tried using 12-foot baskets to slow down Mikan’s signature shots close in. It backfired. The outside shooters were the ones who suffered the most. That experiment was scrapped after one game.
The most extreme example of trying to stop Mikan occurred on November 22, 1950 when the Fort Wayne Pistons decided to keep it out of Mikan’s hands. When the Pistons had the ball they just held it. During the game fans were reading newspapers in the stands or walking out. The NBA reached its absolute low with a final score of 19-18. Continuing to carve up the middle, Mikan won five championships from 1949 to 1954.
Thanks to George Mikan, the 24-second shot clock was born in 1954 and saved the league. What we now take for granted as moving the fastest sport along with marvelous tempo, started out with one volunteer near the court holding a stopwatch and yelling “Time!” after 24 seconds elapsed. By the end of the season, however, all teams had clocks installed around the courts, visible to all and the NBA survived as a result.
“Back in those days, I’d arrive by train or plane a day or two ahead of the team to promote the game.” George described sitting in the lobby of the hotel “To try to drum up business and sell tickets. I never minded any of the extra obligations. You know, when you think about it, it wasTags: Mikan Drill