The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, boasting a list of all-time greats that can’t be matched. One of the most underrated players in both Lakers and NBA history is Elgin Baylor.
Drafted by the Lakers in 1958, he was the sole star player that kept the team relevant when they moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis. In fact, then-Lakers owner Bob Short has been quoted as saying that Baylor joining the Lakers is what prevented the team from going bankrupt.
This week the team announced that Baylor would be honored with a statue outside of Staples Center. In an interview with Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group, Baylor reacted to the news:
“It’s something people have been talking to me about for some time,” Baylor, 83, told the Southern California News Group. “I’m honored to have it happen.” […] “I don’t know how I’m going to react or anything once I see it,” Baylor said, “because nothing like that has ever happened before. But I’m sure that I will enjoy it. Will get an opportunity to probably see some of the people I played basketball with, some of the guys. And I think it should be an interesting day, a fun day.”
Baylor added that he has never really thought about the possibility of being honored in this way:
“I was just happy to be part of the organization for all those years,” he said, “just to be a professional player and play, but really I never have given it any thought about them giving me a statue or anything like that.”
There is no doubt that Baylor is deserving of the honor as one of the NBA’s first true superstars. He averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds in 14 seasons. His 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals remains a record.
Baylor will be the 10th person and fifth Laker to be honored with a statue outside of Staples Center. The most recent to be enshrined in Star Plaza was Los Angeles Kings broadcaster Bob Miller.
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