By Joseph G. Phillips, Chicago Crusader Sports Editor
Former NBA legend and Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Fame great Elgin Baylor passed away at the age of 86 on Tuesday, March 23, of natural causes.
The Hall of Fame forward, who was known as the originator of hang-time and high-flying play above the rim, will be truly missed by his peers and the NBA family.
“I will forever cherish my days spent with him as a teammate, he was one of the most gifted and special players that this game will ever see, and he has never gotten his just due for what he accomplished on the court,” said the NBA logo and Hall of Famer Jerry West, Baylor’s teammate, in a statement via ESPN.
“My first few years in the league, he cared for me like a father would a son, he nurtured me and encouraged me like no one else had during that period of my life. We shared the joy of winning and the heartbreaking losses during the championship finals. He was a prince both on and off of the court. There are no words to describe how I feel at this time. My deepest condolences to his dear wife Elaine and his loving family, and his many fans and friends. I loved him like a brother.”
According to his bio, Baylor was born on September 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C., and is regarded as one the game’s greatest players and greatest forwards ever to lace up a pair of shoes.
The 6-foot-5 forward out of Washington, D.C., started his collegiate career on the basketball courts of Seattle University. The college All-American played for the Chieftains from 1955 to 1958 and led the university to its first ever NCAA finals appearance.
Following a successful collegiate career, Baylor was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers with the first overall pick of the 1958 NBA draft. As a rookie, Baylor won both the NBA Rookie of the Year award and All-Star game MVP.
He was named an 11-time NBA All-Star and earned a 10-time All-NBA team selection during his 14 seasons in the league. His career double-double averages of 27.4 points per game and 13.5 rebounds are the top two in league history.
His scoring highlights included becoming the first player to score 70 points in a game against the New York Knicks in November of 1960, making eight NBA Finals appearances, and holding the single-game NBA Finals scoring record of 61 points per game against the Boston Celtics in 1962.
After retiring due to knee issues in the 1971-72 season, Baylor went on to coach the New Orleans Jazz for three seasons from 1976-1979.
Baylor served as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers from 1986 to 2009 and was named the NBA Executive of the Year during the 2006 season. Baylor was awarded the NBA Executive of the Year award for leading the 2006 Los Angeles Clippers to a 47-win season and a Western Conference semifinals appearance.
“Elgin Baylor set the course for the modern NBA as one of the league’s first superstar players,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement via ESPN.
Baylor is survived by his wife Elaine and daughter Crystal in Los Angeles, California.
Photo credit: ClutchPoints
Photo caption: NBA LEGEND AND Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor passes at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, California.
Joseph Phillips is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 15 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.