Elgin Baylor: The NBA’s Forgotten Superstar

Elgin Baylor: The NBA’s Forgotten Superstar

Elgin Baylor was an All-American at Seattle University, where he played from 1955 to 1958, guiding the team to the NCAA championship tournament finals in 1958. He was selected with the first overall pick of the 1958 NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers (who relocated to Los Angeles in 1960) and earned Rookie of the Year award in his initial season with the Lakers. During his 14-year career, he averaged 27.4 points per game, with a 38.2 average in the 1961–62 season. His 71 points in a 1960 game was an NBA record until it was broken by Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 (1962). Baylor set the single-game scoring record for the NBA finals when he tallied 61 points against the Boston Celtics in game five of the 1962 finals.

Though he played with some of the finest players in Laker franchise history, including Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich, he never won an NBA championship. He was named to the All-NBA first team 10 times, and he retired as the NBA’s third-leading all-time rebounder with a career total of 11,463. Former teammate and NBA Legend Jerry West said about him:

“He was one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known. I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven’t seen many that can compare with him.”

After his playing career ended, Baylor coached the New Orleans Jazz (1974–79). In 1986 he was named vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite being named Executive of the Year in 2006, his tenure managing the Clippers was marked by mostly losing seasons and clashes with team ownership, and he resigned from his position in 2008.

“He helped to change the game, Baylor was perhaps the first highlight player in a league, whose plays at that time consisted almost exclusively of awkward jump shots without bounce, athleticism or accuracy.”Above the Rim was only played by Bill Russell – until Elgin came,” explained US sports journalist Bill Simmons. “He added the word ‘wow’ to the NBA basketball.”

Baylor was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976 and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time in 1996.