As a die-hard Lakers fan it is important for me to remember and share the legacies of the legends who have built the best franchise in NBA history. Elgin Baylor is one of these Lakers legends.
Over his 14-year Hall-of-Fame career spanning from 1959 to 1972, Elgin Baylor averaged an incredible 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.
His exploits earned him 11 All-Star nominations, 10 All-NBA First Team selections, and being named among the NBA's 50 greatest players in history in 1997. Baylor's #22 was retired by the Lakers in 1983.
1959 Rookie of the Year
Elgin Baylor absolutely destroyed the league as a rookie in 1959 with the then Minneapolis Lakers. At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Baylor possessed size, strength, and athleticism that was ahead of his time.
The rookie finished fourth in the NBA in scoring (24.9), third in rebounding (15.0), and ninth in assists (4.1). In his first season in the league Elgin Baylor was awarded the NBA's Rookie of the Year and the All-Star game MVP.
The impact of Baylor's play also translated to the team as he helped the Lakers improve by 14 games, going from 19-53 in 1958 to 33-39 in 1959. Most impressively, the Lakers surprised the league by advancing to the NBA Finals in 1959, eventually losing to the Boston Celtics, a theme that would reoccur throughout Elgin Baylor's career.
The Amazing 1961 Season
The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles before the 1961 season and Elgin Baylor made an immediate impact in his new home in Tinseltown, putting together one of the most individually dominant seasons in league history. The Lakers' star was second in the NBA in scoring (34.8), fourth in rebounds (19.8), and eighth in assists (5.1) as the Lakers now called Los Angeles home.
The Scoring Machine
The 71 points Elgin Baylor scored against the New York Knicks in 1960 set a new NBA record for single-game scoring, highlighting how dominant the Lakers star could be.
In 1962 he set his career scoring mark by averaging 38.3 points per game. Baylor led the Lakers to the Finals in 1962 against the Boston Celtics and set a new playoff scoring record when he dropped 61 points in Game 5 of Finals, a record that stood until Michael Jordan scored 63 in 1986.
Always a Bride's Maid…The best NBA player without a ring might not be Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, or Karl Malone. It might be Elgin Baylor.
During his 14-year career Elgin Baylor led the Lakers to the NBA Finals eight times, but each time the Lakers came up short. On seven occasions the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the Finals. The Lakers' 1970 Finals loss came in a 4-3 defeat to the New York Knicks in the legendary "Willis Reed" game.
In a cruel twist of fate, Elgin Baylor was forced to retire in 1972 due to injury and the Lakers went on to win the title that year without him.
Despite the lack of an NBA title, Elgin Baylor is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Baylor was the backbone of the franchise in the 1960's, preparing the team and its fans for the decades of dominance that would follow.
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Lakers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: