Elgin Baylor: An Overlooked Laker Legend

“I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven’t seen many that can compare with him.” Jerry West, HOOP Magazine, 1992.

Before the STAPLES Center let Shannon Brown dunk his 6’4″ heart out, the inch higher Baylor had as much vertical, dazzling the Los Angeles crowd and other forums league wide with his athletic, acrobatic, aerial assaults. Taking it out of L.A. this guy is one of the best all-time players in the whole history of the league. At 6’5″ and 225 pounds he was affording way more rebounds then his size could spend, way before Charles Barkley made the mound. Most teams would love to have a 20 and 10, double double machine at the 4 or the 5, but sized like a 3. Elgin Baylor averaged 27.4 points 13.5 rebounds for his career (24.9 and 15 as a rookie playing like a veteran to boot). That’s almost 30 and 15. In fact one season Baylor brought 34.8 points and 19.8 rebounds to the end of season box-score. Those are Wilt numbers.

Decades before 2010’s Boston/L.A. Finals and way before Magic and Bird helped re-vitalize the NBA and the Lakers/Celtics rivalry, Baylor and West where doing it with their own historic Boston match-ups, ensuring that arm-chair sports fans didn’t adjust their sets. Amongst all these heated, historic rivalries, Baylor and West may have achieved circle digits in relation to championship rings, but they sure did win a lot of respect. Sure there was no love lost between these East and West coast teams but Elgin had his own personal Boston rivalry with all-time forward Bill Sharman. Sure they had their battles but amidst the war Shar’ admired Elg. The pair played the game the way it was meant to be played and were friends, professionals, warriors, basketball purists and true sportsman.

OK, if your done with the history lesson then how about some math? The stats speak for themselves, especially since this player recorded all these numbers in just 170 games over 13 seasons. Even injuries couldn’t chill the fire of this legends place on the all-time lists. During his 14 years (all with the Lakers), he was an NBA All-Star 11 times. The ‘Rookie Of The Year’ was so big from the outset in what was also the Lakers debut year in Los Angeles. He hit more than 50 points 17 times in his career and hit around 60 as much as most top players today hit 40. One of many highlights was his 1962, 61 point, 22 rebound Finals performance against Boston when Jerry West was out injured. The glass cleaner once polished off 30 rebounds against Cincinnati, just another crowning achievement for NBA royalty.

So sure Jerry West received his just deserves out in California last February, but the Lakers better make room and stone for many more Laker legends who’s jerseys are already raised to the rafters. Especially Baylor, as this man of the Hall needs to be monitored more by the eye of NBA history. Sure Jerry West is the logo, but Elgin Baylor is a symbol. A symbol of the birth of the Lakers out in Los Angeles and the real rise of African-American players in the NBA and the leagues popularity itself. Elgin scored big on many points, even beyond the stat-sheet. As for the respect for this loved game, just hear what the fans and the coaches alike had to say about Elgin’s rookie, 55 point performance against the Knickerbockers, ‘Give it to Baylor.’

“Elgin Baylor should be there,” Jerry West, 17th February, 2010.

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