The National Basketball Association family lost one of its most legendary figures in Elgin Baylor, who passed away on Monday. He was 86.
Baylor spent his 14-year NBA career with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers. He was one of the greatest offensive players in the history of the game and a forerunner to many future great players who made many great plays while suspended in the air.
When you think of great players such as Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Connie Hawkins, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and LeBron James who excited fans with their mid-air exploits, it was Elgin Baylor who was the first who brought this kind of acrobatic excitement to the NBA in the late 1950’s and 60’s with hanging jump shots and slam dunks.
A native of Washington D.C., Baylor was a collegiate star at Seattle University, where he led the Chieftains to the school’s only Final Four appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1957. He averaged more than 30 points during his college career. He also averaged nearly 20 rebounds a game to lead the nation as a senior.
Baylor was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in 1959 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1959 after finishing second in the league in scoring and third in rebounding.
In his 14 seasons with the Lakers, the 6’5” Baylor scored 23,149 points, grabbed 11,463 rebounds and handed out 3,650 assists. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star and was selected to the All-NBA First Team 10 times in his career, which included eight Western Conference titles and eight trips to the NBA Finals. He scored 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals, which is a record that still stands today.
Upon his retirement from the NBA in 1972, Baylor spent the next four decades as a head coach and in the front office as an executive. He spent 22 seasons as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers.