Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor.jpeg
Baylor with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1967
Personal information
Born(1934-09-16)September 16, 1934
Washington, D.C.
DiedMarch 22, 2021(2021-03-22) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High school
NBA draft1958 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Minneapolis Lakers
Playing career1958–1971
PositionSmall forward
Coaching career1974–1979
Career history
As player:
19581971Minneapolis / Los Angeles Lakers
As coach:
19741976New Orleans Jazz (assistant)
1974New Orleans Jazz (interim)
19761979New Orleans Jazz
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As executive:

Career statistics
Points23,149 (27.4 ppg)
Rebounds11,463 (13.5 rpg)
Assists3,650 (4.3 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Elgin Gay Baylor (September 16, 1934 – March 22, 2021) was an American professional basketball player, coach, and executive. He played 14 seasons as a forward in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, appearing in eight NBA Finals.

Baylor was a gifted shooter, a strong rebounder, and an accomplished passer, who was best known for his trademark hanging jump shot. The No. 1 draft pick in 1958, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, 11-time NBA All-Star, and a 10-time member of the All-NBA first team, he is regarded as one of the game's all-time greatest players.[3] In 1977, Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[4]

Baylor spent 22 years as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. He won the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2006. Two years later he was relieved of his executive duties by the Clippers shortly before the 2008–09 season began.[5]

His popularity led to appearances on the television series Rowan and Martin's Laugh In in 1968; the Jackson Five's first TV special in 1971; a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Olympiad"; and an episode of The White Shadow titled "If Your Number's Up, Get Down".

Early life

Elgin "Rabbit" Baylor was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Uzziel (Lewis) and John Wesley Baylor.[6] He began playing basketball when he was 14.[7] Although he grew up near a D.C. city recreation center, African Americans were banned from using the facilities, and Baylor had limited access to basketball courts growing up.[8] He had two basketball-playing brothers, Sal and Kermit.[9] After stints at Southwest Boys Club and Brown Jr. High, Baylor was a three-time All-City player in high school.[10]

Baylor played his first two years of high school basketball at Phelps Vocational High School in the 1951 and 1952 seasons. At the time, public schools in Washington, D.C., were segregated, so he only played against other black high school teams. There he set his first area scoring record of 44 points versus Cardozo H.S.[10] During his two All-City years at Phelps, he averaged 18.5 and 27.6 points per season.[10] He did not perform well academically and dropped out of school (1952–53) to work in a furniture store and play basketball in the local recreational leagues.[10]

Baylor reappeared for the 1954 season as a senior playing for the recently opened all-black Spingarn High School. The 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m), 190 lb (86 kg) senior was named first-team Washington All-Metropolitan, and was the first African-American player named to that team.[7] He also won the SSA's Livingstone Trophy as the area's best basketball player for 1954. He finished with a 36.1 average for his eight Interhigh Division II league games.[10]

On February 3, 1954, in a game against his old Phelps team, he scored 31 in the first half. Playing with four fouls the entire second half, Baylor scored 32 more points to establish a new DC-area record with 63 points. This broke the point record of 52 that Western's Jim Wexler had set the year before when he broke Baylor's previous record of 44. However, because Wexler was white and Baylor was black, Baylor's record did not receive the same press coverage from the media, including the Washington Post, as Wexler's.[10][8]

College career

Baylor at Seattle

An inadequate scholastic record kept Baylor out of college until a friend arranged a scholarship at the College of Idaho, where he was expected to play basketball and football.[7] After one season playing basketball, in which he averaged 31.3 points per game,[7] the school dismissed the head basketball coach and restricted the scholarships. A Seattle car dealer interested Baylor in Seattle University, and Baylor sat out a year to play for Westside Ford, an AAU team in Seattle while establishing eligibility at Seattle.[11] The Minneapolis Lakers drafted him in the 14th round of the 1956 NBA Draft, but Baylor opted to stay in school instead.[12]

During the 1956–57 season, Baylor averaged 29.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game for Seattle.[7] The next season, Baylor averaged 32.5 points per game and led the Seattle University Chieftains (now known as the Redhawks) to the NCAA championship game, Seattle's only trip to the Final Four, falling to the Kentucky Wildcats.[7] Following his junior season, Baylor was drafted again by the Minneapolis Lakers with the No. 1 pick in the 1958 NBA Draft, and this time he opted to leave school to join them for the 1958–59 NBA season.[13]

Over three collegiate seasons, one at College of Idaho and two at Seattle, Baylor averaged 31.3 points per game and 19.5 rebounds per game. He led the NCAA in rebounds during the 1956–57 season.[14]

Fifty-one years after Baylor left Seattle University, they named its basketball court in honor of him on November 19, 2009. The Redhawks now play on the Elgin Baylor Court in Seattle's KeyArena. The Redhawks also host the annual Elgin Baylor Classic. In June 2017, The College of Idaho had Baylor as one of the inaugural inductees into the school's Hall of Fame.[15]

NBA career

Baylor standing next to teammates Jerry Chambers (center) and Jerry West (right), circa 1966

The Minneapolis Lakers used the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA draft to select Baylor, then convinced him to skip his senior year at SU and instead join the pro ranks. The team, several years removed from its glory days of George Mikan, was in trouble on the court and at the gate. The year prior to Baylor's arrival, the Lakers finished 19–53 with a squad that was slow, bulky and aging. Baylor, whom the Lakers signed to play for $20,000 per year (equivalent to $180,000 in 2020), was the franchise's last shot at survival.[7]

With his superb athletic talents and all-around game, Baylor was seen as the kind of player who could save a franchise, and he did. According to Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short in a 1971 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "If he had turned me down then, I would have been out of business. The club would have gone bankrupt."[16]

Rookie of the Year

As a rookie in 1958–59, Baylor finished second in the league in scoring (24.9 points per game), third in rebounding (15.0 rebounds per game), and eighth in assists (4.1 assists per game).[17] He registered 55 points in a single game, then the third-highest mark in league history behind Joe Fulks' 63 and Mikan's 61. Baylor won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and led the Lakers from last place the previous year to the NBA finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in the first four-game sweep in finals history, kicking off the greatest rivalry in NBA history.[18] During his career, Baylor helped lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals seven more times.[13]

Middle years

The cover of the Los Angeles Lakers program for "Elgin Baylor Night" on March 21, 1969

From the 1960–61 to the 1962–63 seasons, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3, and 34.0 points per game, respectively. On November 15 of the 1960–61 season, Baylor set a new NBA scoring record when he scored 71 points in a victory against the New York Knicks, while also grabbing 25 rebounds.[19] In doing so, Baylor had broken his own NBA record of 64 points that he had set in the previous season. Baylor, a United States Army Reservist, was called to active duty during the 1961–62 season, and being stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, he could play for the Lakers only when on a weekend pass.[20] Despite playing only 48 games during the 1961–62 season, he still managed to score over 1,800 points. Later that season, in a Game Five NBA Finals victory against the Boston Celtics, Baylor grabbed 22 rebounds and set the still-standing NBA record for points in an NBA Finals game with 61;[13] he averaged 40.6 points and 17.9 rebounds in the seven-game series loss.[21]

Baylor began to be hampered by knee problems during the 1963–64 season. The problems culminated in a severe knee injury suffered during the 1965 Western Division playoffs, requiring him to undergo knee surgery.[7] Baylor, while still a very powerful force, was never quite the same, never again averaging above 30 points per game.[7]


Baylor played just two games in 1970–71 before rupturing his Achilles tendon,[7] and finally retired nine games into the subsequent 1971–72 season because of his nagging knee problems. The timing of his retirement caused him to miss two great achievements—the Lakers' next game after his retirement was the first of an NBA-record 33 consecutive wins,[22] and then the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship that season. The Lakers awarded Baylor a 1972 championship ring even though he had retired earlier in the season.[2]

Career achievements and legacy

A letter from California Governor Ronald Reagan to Elgin Baylor

Baylor was the last of the great undersized forwards in a league where many guards are now his size or bigger.[23] He finished his playing days with 23,149 points, 3,650 assists and 11,463 rebounds over 846 games. His signature running bank shot, which he was able to release quickly and effectively over taller players, led him to numerous NBA scoring records, several of which still stand.[13]

The 71 points Baylor scored on November 15, 1960, was a record at the time; it was also a team record that would not be surpassed until Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006. The 61 points he scored in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1962 is still an NBA Finals record.[13] An underrated rebounder, Baylor averaged 13.5 rebounds per game during his career, including a remarkable 19.8 rebounds per game during the 1960–61 season[20]—a season average exceeded by only five other players in NBA history, all of whom were 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) or taller.[24]

A 10-time All-NBA First Team selection and 11-time NBA All-Star, Baylor was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was named to the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1980 and the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996. in 2009, SLAM Magazine ranked him number 11 among its Top 50 NBA players of all time. He is often listed as the greatest NBA player never to win a championship.[25][26][27]

The first biography of Baylor was written by Slam Online contributor Bijan C. Bayne in 2015, and published by Rowman and Littlefield.[28]

On April 6, 2018, a statue of Baylor, designed by Gary Tillery and Omri Amrany, was unveiled at the Staples Center prior to a Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.[29]

NBA coach and executive

In 1974, Baylor was hired to be an assistant coach and later the head coach for the New Orleans Jazz, but had a lackluster 86–135 record and retired following the 1978–79 season.[30] In 1986, Baylor was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers as the team's vice president of basketball operations. He stayed in that capacity for 22 years before reportedly resigning in October 2008 at the age of 74.[31] During his tenure, the Clippers managed only two winning seasons and amassed a win-loss record of 607-1153. They also won only one playoff series during this time.[32]

Baylor was selected as the NBA Executive of the Year in 2006. That year the Clippers won their first playoff series since 1976, when the franchise was located in Buffalo, New York, and named the Buffalo Braves.[33]

In February 2009, Baylor filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Clippers, team owner Donald Sterling, team president Andy Roeser, and the NBA. He alleged that he was underpaid during his tenure with the team and then fired because of his age and race.[34] Baylor later dropped the racial discrimination claims in the suit.[35] Baylor's remaining claims were rejected by a Los Angeles state court jury on March 30, 2011, by a unanimous 12–0 vote.[36]


Baylor died on March 22, 2021, at age 86 of natural causes. He was survived by his wife Elaine and daughter Krystle. He has a son, Alan, and daughter, Alison, from a previous marriage.[37]

NBA career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 *  Led the league
Elgin Baylor regular season statistics
1958–59 Minneapolis 70 40.8 .408 .777 15.0 4.1 24.9
1959–60 Minneapolis 70 41.0 .424 .732 16.4 3.5 29.6
1960–61 L.A. Lakers 73 42.9 .430 .783 19.8 5.1 34.8
1961–62 L.A. Lakers 48 44.4 .428 .754 18.6 4.6 38.3
1962–63 L.A. Lakers 80* 42.1 .453 .837 14.3 4.8 34.0
1963–64 L.A. Lakers 78 40.6 .425 .804 12.0 4.4 25.4
1964–65 L.A. Lakers 74 41.3 .401 .792 12.8 3.8 27.1
1965–66 L.A. Lakers 65 30.4 .401 .739 9.6 3.4 16.6
1966–67 L.A. Lakers 70 38.7 .429 .813 12.8 3.1 26.6
1967–68 L.A. Lakers 77 39.3 .443 .786 12.2 4.6 26.0
1968–69 L.A. Lakers 76 40.3 .447 .743 10.6 5.4 24.8
1969–70 L.A. Lakers 54 41.0 .486 .773 10.4 5.4 24.0
1970–71 L.A. Lakers 2 28.5 .421 .667 5.5 1.0 10.0
1971–72 L.A. Lakers 9 26.6 .433 .815 6.3 2.0 11.8
Career 846 40.0 .431 .780 13.5 4.3 27.4
All-Star 11 29.2 .427 .796 9.0 3.5 19.8

Source: [38]

Elgin Baylor playoffs statistics
1959 Minneapolis 13 42.8 .403 .770 12.0 3.3 25.5
1960 Minneapolis 9 45.3 .474 .840 14.1 3.4 33.4
1961 L.A. Lakers 12 45.0 .470 .824 15.3 4.6 38.1
1962 L.A. Lakers 13 43.9 .438 .774 17.7 3.6 38.6
1963 L.A. Lakers 13 43.2 .442 .825 13.6 4.5 32.6
1964 L.A. Lakers 5 44.2 .378 .775 11.6 5.6 24.2
1965 L.A. Lakers 1 5.0 .000 0.0 1.0 0.0
1966 L.A. Lakers 14 41.9 .442 .810 14.1 3.7 26.8
1967 L.A. Lakers 3 40.3 .368 .750 13.0 3.0 23.7
1968 L.A. Lakers 15 42.2 .468 .679 14.5 4.0 28.5
1969 L.A. Lakers 18 35.6 .385 .630 9.2 4.1 15.4
1970 L.A. Lakers 18 37.1 .466 .741 9.6 4.6 18.7
Career 134 41.1 .439 .769 12.9 4.0 27.0

Source: [38]

Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Elgin Baylor coaching record
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
New Orleans 1974–75 1 0 1 .000 (interim)
New Orleans 1976–77 56 21 35 .375 5th in central Missed Playoffs
New Orleans 1977–78 82 39 43 .476 5th in central Missed Playoffs
New Orleans 1978–79 82 26 56 .317 6th in central Missed Playoffs
Career 221 86 135 .389

Source: [39]

See also


  1. ^ Joe Barnathan (November 15, 2011). "Why Elgin Baylor Is an NBA Champion". Bleacher Report. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Dave McKenna (May 30, 2013). "An Unfamiliar Ring". Grantland. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  3. ^ "Elgin Baylor: Complete Bio". nba.com. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  4. ^ "Hall of Famers". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved August 2, 2009.
  5. ^ "Clippers players shocked Baylor is out". Ocregister.com. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  6. ^ Bayne, Bijan C. (August 13, 2015). Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball. ISBN 9781442245716.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schwartz, Larry. "Before Michael, there was Elgin". espn.com. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  8. ^ a b McKenna, Dave (July 2, 1999). "Elgin Baylor, Absentee Legend". Washington City Paper. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  9. ^ Schilling, Dave (April 6, 2018). "Kobe Before Kobe, LeBron Before LeBron: Elgin Baylor Finally Gets His Due". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Bayne, Bijan (August 13, 2015). Elgin Baylor The Man Who Changed Basketball. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 2–6. ISBN 9781442245716. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  11. ^ NBA Register: 1986–87 Edition. The Sporting News Publishing Company. 1986. p. 287. ISBN 9780892042272.
  12. ^ "Los Angeles Lakers star and former LA Clippers exec Elgin Baylor dies at 86". ESPN. March 22, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d e "#22 ELGIN BAYLOR". NBA.com. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  14. ^ NBA Register: 1986–87 Edition. The Sporting News Publishing Company. 1986. p. 289. ISBN 9780892042272.
  15. ^ Rains, B.J. (June 2, 2017). "NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor returns to Caldwell for induction to College of Idaho Hall of Fame". Idaho Press. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  16. ^ Knoblauch, A., "Greatest sports figures in L.A. history, No. 17: Elgin Baylor", Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2011.
  17. ^ "1958-59 NBA Player Stats: Per Game". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  18. ^ "10 Best Historical Rivalries in the NBA". bleacherreport.com. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  19. ^ "Elgin Baylor". nba.com. Retrieved August 10, 2010.
  20. ^ a b Trivic, Filip (April 7, 2020). "Elgin's 38-19-5 more implausible than Wilt's 50 a game or Oscar's triple-double". Basketball Network. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  21. ^ "1962 NBA Finals - Lakers vs. Celtics". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  22. ^ "Top 10 Teams In NBA History: 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers". nba.com. Archived from the original on August 3, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2008.
  23. ^ Dimitrije Curcic (May 14, 2019). "67 Years of Height Evolution in the NBA - In-depth Research". runrepeat.com. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  24. ^ "NBA All-Time Rebounds Leaders: Career Per Game Average in the Regular Season". Land of Basketball. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  25. ^ "The 10 Greatest NBA Players With No Championship Jewelry". Dimemag.com. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  26. ^ Barry Petchesky. "The Greatest NBA Player To Never Win A Title Is Auctioning Off His Championship Ring. (What?)". Deadspin.com. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  27. ^ "Wisch: Top 5 Players To Never Win An NBA Title « CBS Chicago". Chicago.cbslocal.com. June 14, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  28. ^ Nelson, Murry (Spring 2016). "Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball by Bijan C. Bayne (review)". Journal of Sport History. 43 (1): 110–111. doi:10.5406/jsporthistory.43.1.110. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  29. ^ Oram, Bill (April 6, 2018). "Elgin Baylor 'humbled' as Lakers unveil statue outside Staples Center". OC Register. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  30. ^ "Lakers legend and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor dead at 86". NBA. March 22, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  31. ^ Abrams, Jonathan (March 26, 2009). "Elgin Baylor and His Lawsuit Against the Clippers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  32. ^ Liz, Roscher (March 22, 2021). "Elgin Baylor, legendary Hall of Famer and Lakers star, dies at 86". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  33. ^ "Clippers' Baylor named executive of year". ESPN. May 17, 2006. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  34. ^ Elgin Baylor Sues Los Angeles Clippers for Employment Discrimination ESPN.com, February 11, 2009.
  35. ^ Lance Pugmire (March 4, 2011). "Elgin Baylor drops racial discrimination claim in suit against L.A. Clippers". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  36. ^ Lance Pugmire, "Elgin Baylor's lawsuit rejected by Los Angeles County jury", Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2011.
  37. ^ KSTP staff (March 22, 2021). "Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor dies at 86". kstp.com. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Elgin Baylor Stats". Basketball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  39. ^ "Elgin Baylor Coaching Record". Basketball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2021.

External links


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