Elgin Baylor, who played 14 seasons with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, spent four seasons coaching the New Orleans Jazz, and 22 seasons as an executive with the Los Angeles Clippers before ending his tenure in the NBA, has died at the age of 86.
The Lakers reported the news Monday that Baylor died of natural causes with his wife, Elaine, and daughter, Krystal, by his side in Los Angeles.
Both Lakers Governor and Owner, Jeanie Buss, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released statements to Baylor’s influence.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era – his many accolades speak to that,” said Buss. “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 No. 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.”
Elgin Baylor: Forever part of our Lakers Family. pic.twitter.com/zcRhVUSSmx
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 22, 2021
Baylor’s Early Life
Baylor was born in Washington D.C. on September 16, 1934 to Uzziel Lewis and John Wesley Baylor. He only began playing basketball at the age of 14.
Baylor played basketball at two high schools and the College of Idaho before leading Seattle University to the NCAA Tournament Championship Finals in 1958. Following the season, Baylor was selected first overall by the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1958 NBA Draft, two season before the team moved to Los Angeles.
During his senior year, Baylor scored a Washington D.C. (then) area-record 63 points during his senior year at Spingarn High School. The performance came against his former team Phelps Vocational High School.
NBA Career With the Lakers
Baylor won Rookie of the Year in 1959 averaging 24.9 points per game, 15 rebounds a game, 4.1 assist per game. The impressive campaign helped lead the Lakers to the first of eight Finals appearances during Baylor’s career with the team.
During the three seasons from 1960-63, Baylor averaged over 34 points a game each season. including 38 in 1961-62. During the 1961-62 season, Baylor served as a U.S. Army Reserve, and therefore could only play games for the Lakers on weekends.
Despite the impressive career, Baylor never won an MVP or an NBA title. Something made more unfortunate as the Lakers won an NBA Championship in the 1971-72 season, a year in which Baylor played nine games before retiring due to nagging knee problems.
Over 14 season, Baylor made 11 All-Star Games and was named to 10 All-NBA teams. For his career, he averaged 27.3 points and 13.5 rebounds.
In a statement released Monday, former teammate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Jerry West spoke on his special relationship with Baylor calling him “one of the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life.”
Similarly, other current and former players around the NBA released statements speaking on Baylor’s impact.
— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) March 22, 2021
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 pic.twitter.com/khPRc73gqW
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 22, 2021
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) March 22, 2021
One of the all-time greats, and perhaps the best player to ever come out of the District. RIP to the legendary Elgin Baylor. https://t.co/0fQ2DjChrH
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) March 22, 2021