By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
One of the NBA’s All-Time greats Elgin Baylor passed away this week at the age of 86. The Hall of Famer passed away of natural causes surrounded by his wife Elaine and daughter Krystal.
Baylor was born September 16, 1934 in Washington D.C. We all know him as a talented athlete but he was a good family man, husband and great human being.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” said Elaine. “And like everyone else I was in awe of his immense courage, dignity and the time he gave all fans. At this time we ask that I and our family be allowed to mourn his passing in privacy.”
Baylor was drafted twice by the Minneapolis Lakers. The first time in 1956 in the 14th round, but he decided to stay in school.
He collegiately played at the College of Idaho before transferring to University Seattle Chieftian’s (now known as the Redhawks). In his inaugural season he averaged 29 points and 20 rebounds a game. The following year he averaged 32 points a game and led them to their first and only appearance to the NCAA title game where they fell to Kentucky.
In 1958 he was selected again by the Minneapolis Lakers in the first round. The team had a 19-53 record before Elgin came aboard. After his arrival they soared from last place to the NBA finals. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year. After a second season in Minneapolis the team moved to Los Angeles.
“He was the first Laker superstar when the team moved to Los Angeles. When we first played home games people cheered for the visiting team,” said Laker great Jerry West. “The more he played and showed his athletic ability the fans began to cheer for us.” West and Baylor were Laker teammates for 11 years. They played in several finals together.
At 6-5 he had more moves than a moving van. He had more moves than ex lax. He could jump over you and jump around you. He was the NBA’s first ankle breaker. In 1961-62 he averaged 38 points a game as a while playing only 48 games as he was serving as an Army reservist. Only on weekend leave he played with the Lakers. He scored over 1,800 points still. In game five of the finals that season he had 22 rebounds and scored a record 61 points which is still a record today.
“Elgin was the ‘Superstar’ of the era,” said Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss. “He was one of the few Lakers whose career spanned from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. But more importantly he was a man of great integrity. Even serving his country as a Army reservist. He will always be part of the Laker legacy. On behalf of the entire Laker Family I’d like to send my thoughts prayers and condolences to the Baylor family “
In the 1971-72 season due to a lingering Achilles injury he retired after just nine games . the team set a Pro sports team record by winning 33 straight games. Then went on to win the NBA title.
“I really believe he was the first Showtime, he was before Showtime,” Magic Johnson told Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times. “He deserved more respect on hoe dominant he was as an NBA player and Hall of Famer and a guy that just couldn’t be stopped.”
He led the Lakers to eight finals. He was named All-NBA First team10 times and was an 11-time All-Star.
In 1977 he was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was Named All-NBA 35th Team and All-NBA 50 Anniversary Team.
Baylor worked for the Clippers and Donald Sterling for 22 years beginning in 1986. He was the first to speak out on Sterling racism in the sport. that later led to him being band from the NBA for life. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2006.
His number 22 jersey was retired by the Lakers in 1983 and a Bronze statue of Baylor was unveiled at STAPLES Center on April 6,2018.
Baylor is survived by his wife Elaine, daughter Krystal, son and daughter Allen and Allison from a previous marriage and sister Gladys Baylor Barrett.