The Los Angeles Lakers have endured a rough year as in addition to on-court troubles that led to a first-round exit, the franchise had to bid farewell to the legendary Elgin Baylor, who died at the age of 86.
Baylor spent all of his 14 years in the NBA with the Lakers after the organization, then residing in Minneapolis, selected the forward with the No. 1 pick in the 1958 NBA Draft. L.A. has been celebrating his legacy this season wearing two throwback jersey sets designed by their legend as part of the Lore Series line.
Kyle Kuzma said Baylor left an indelible mark on the Lakers franchise and the game of basketball in general. “He’s one of the pillars of not only Lakers basketball, but of NBA history,” he said. “One of the greater players of all time. For me to be here in L.A. during my time and just being able to meet one of the greats, I love it.
“Any time I can meet people before my time and pave the way for me and others to be in this league, it’s huge.”
Baylor averaged an astonishing 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds over the course of his career. Kuzma brought up the iconic forward’s stats as an example of his greatness but added he was an inspiration both on and off the court. “I saw a crazy, crazy stat of him the other day that said, I think this is 1961,” he said.
“He was listed in the Army. He could only play on the weekends and averaged 39 and 19 for the season and only played 45 or 46 games. That’s an unbelievable stat. That just shows you how great he was as a player, but he was a great man, too.”
Frank Vogel: Baylor will be missed by entire Lakers community
Baylor didn’t always receive as much recognition as his teammates and future fellow Hall-of-Famers Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. But Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, whose father educated him on the late legend’s talent in his childhood days, said Baylor undeniably belonged among other all-time franchise and NBA greats.
“He was just one of the original midair acrobats,” Vogel said. “The creativity that he showed in his game is something that many spoke of and you have someone like Dr. J saying that he used to emulate Elgin and his mid-air moves. I think that speaks volumes and he’s just going to be missed by the entire Lakers community and NBA community.”
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