Elgin Baylor was the NBA’s first superstar.
High flying and electrifying, Elgin Baylor dazzled the crowds all over the country with his athleticism and outrageous skills. He was a great scorer, ending his career with the highest points mark in a single game and also the highest points ever made in an NBA Finals game, a record that still stands today at 61. He was also a very good and under rated rebounder as well as being a fantastic passer of the ball. Along with Jerry West, Baylor formed one of the best duos in the history of the NBA.
Having spent all his playing time with the Lakers, Baylor is regarded as one of the best players for the franchise and was voted as one of the 50 Greatest players of the NBA. He went to 8 NBA Finals, but never won a title. Although post retirement his squad did win their first championship, Baylor was not playing at that time and was given an honorary winner’s ring.
Baylor was always a standout performer ever since his early days in school and college and in 1958 was drafted by the then Minneapolis Lakers as the No.1 draft pick. The Lakers had fallen from their pedestal since the retirement of the great George Mikan and were placed last in the NBA with a 19-53 record. The club was on the verge of dissolution when as a last resort, Baylor was signed and convinced to skip the final year of college to play in the pros.
The move paid instant dividends as the Lakers went on to play in the NBA Finals that same season, a feat remarkable in its own right. Baylor would win the rookie of the year and set the tone for the rest of his career. Although the Lakers were swept in the Finals, Baylor had made his mark. He would go on to make a further 7 appearances in the Finals, but he would be thwarted each time, mostly by their great rivals, the Celtics. It was at this time that the foundation for one of sport’s great rivalries was laid down as the Lakers and the Boston Celtics repeatedly clashed with each other, but the Celtics held the upper hand. Although the Lakers are widely acknowledged as a more talented side, the Celtics demonstrated a better team ethic to win multiple championships and overtake the Lakers as the most successful club in basketball.
Baylor was known for his high flying dunks and lay ups, his acrobatic finishes and moves. He repeatedly crossed the 60 point barrier in his early years in the league before a knee injury forced him to change his game.
He regularly averaged more than 30 points and 10 rebounds in a season. He held the record for points in a game at 71, breaking his own record of 64 before Wilt Chamberlain extended it to 100. He was the first real Small Forward, and laid the foundation for future generation of players like LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
Baylor was under sized for a small forward compared to the modern game, but his gifted passing made him a true legend. LeBron James and Oscar Robertson are two players who instantly come to mind when you think of players closely resembling the style of play demonstrated by Baylor. Oscar Robertson was an over sized guard and LeBron plays the Point Guard from a small forward position. Such tactics remind one of Elgin Baylor, who took control of this team and was one of the first under sized players to dominate the game of basketball in an era which was largely dominated by big centers.
Baylor remains one of the most highly respected players by his peers and served as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers post retirement. He would also win an Executive of the Year award, sharing his gifts with another franchise.