Elgin Baylor served in the Army and played on weekends

Elgin Baylor served in the Army and played on weekends

Yesterday, we lost one of the most underrated superstars ever to play in the NBA. Hall of Fame forward and a Lakers icon, Elgin Baylor passed away at the age of 86. Everyone who played with or against Elgin would always bring him up as constantly overlooked. Why did that happen?

The first person you think about when talking about the ’60s Lakers is Jerry West. Makes sense, as West has stayed relevant in the NBA to this day, and there’s that small detail of being The Logo. The other tough luck Baylor had was continually meeting up with the Celtics in the Finals, and sharing Jerry West’s Finals record. In any other era, Elgin would have a few titles to his name.

But Baylor was a phenomenon of his own. We take for granted that his nickname was Mr. Hang Time. Baylor was the first player to seem like he can stay in the air longer than everybody else, and used it for some of the most incredible finishes around the rim you will ever see. As Kobe explained it, he was Dr. J. and Michael Jordan before Dr. J. and Michael Jordan.

Baylor had many tremendous achievements in his career, the most memorable one being one of the best Finals performances of all time. He scored 61 points and had 22 rebounds against the Celtics in the Boston Garden! But there is one circumstance that makes this even more spectacular.

Baylor achieved it in the ’61/’62 season while serving in the Army Reserves. He was eligible for military service and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. While other men enlisted used their weekend passes to go back home or party, Elgin Baylor was driving to NBA games and averaged 38 points, 19 rebounds and 5 assists in the 48 games he played.

This arrangement cost Baylor 3rd place on the all-time scorers’ list. Given the fact he couldn’t make it to the game and back in time for a lot of the games, Baylor only played 48 games that season. Most rankings have a minimum of games played that eliminate him from the list. If his 38.3 points per game would count, he would be 3rd all time. This is what the top 5 would look like.

  1. Wilt Chamberain (61/61) – 50.3 ppg
  2. Wilt Chamberain (62/63) – 44.8 ppg
  3. Wilt Chamberlain (60/61) & Elgin Baylor (61/62) – 38.3 ppg
  4. Wilt Chamberlain (59/60) – 37.6 ppg
  5. Michael Jordan (86/87) – 37.1 ppg

Elgin Baylor was one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and we need to do a better job appreciating his talent and what he meant to the game. One of the greatest students of the game said it – he was Dr. J. and Michael Jordan before Dr. J. and Michael Jordan.