Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor dies at 86

By Ben Spratt 23 March 2021 38
Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor dies at 86

Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor, an 11-time NBA All-Star, has died aged 86.

The Hall of Famer passed away of natural causes surrounded by his family in Los Angeles, the team said on Monday.

Baylor enjoyed a sensational career after the Lakers, then based in Minneapolis, selected him with the first overall pick in the 1958 NBA Draft.

The former Seattle University star immediately excelled in the NBA with 24.9 points and 15.0 rebounds per game in his debut 1958-59 season as he was named Rookie of the Year and selected to both the All-Star Game and the All-NBA First Team.

Baylor's Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the Finals, though, beginning a remarkable trend for the player.

That was the first of eight Finals losses for Baylor and the Lakers, who moved to LA in 1960.

Maintaining an incredible standard, Baylor made the All-Star Game 11 times in 12 seasons up until 1970 and the First Team on 10 occasions in 11 years up until 1969.

Only in 1965-66, when he played 30.4 minutes and posted 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds, by far the lowest marks at that stage of his career, was Baylor not recognised over this period.

Injury prompted his retirement in 1971-72, meaning he missed the Lakers' first title since moving to LA later that season. The team awarded Baylor his only championship ring regardless.

His number 22 jersey was later retired and a statue outside the team's Staples Center home was unveiled in 2018.

"Elgin was the superstar of his era – his many accolades speak to that," said Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

"He was one of the few Lakers players whose career spanned from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. But more importantly he was a man of great integrity, even serving his country as a U.S. Army reservist, often playing for the Lakers only during his weekend pass.

"He is one of the all-time Lakers greats with his number 22 jersey retired in the rafters and his statue standing guard in front of Staples Center. He will always be part of the Lakers legacy.

"On behalf of the entire Lakers family, I'd like to send my thoughts, prayers and condolences to [wife] Elaine and the Baylor family."

Baylor finished his career averaging 27.4 points per game, ranking third all-time behind Michael Jordan (30.1) and his Lakers team-mate Wilt Chamberlain (30.1). His 13.5 rebounds per game have him 10th.

Despite the Lakers' repeated playoff woes, Baylor tallied 27.0 points across 134 postseason games, putting him eighth in another category Jordan (33.4) leads.

Magic Johnson posted on Twitter: "RIP to the NBA's first high flyer, Lakers Legend, & Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor.

"Before there was Michael Jordan doing amazing things in the air, there was Elgin Baylor!

"A true class act and great man, I'll always appreciate the advice he shared with me when I first came into the league."

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Ben Spratt

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