The Los Angeles Lakers honored another of their franchise icons by unveiling an Elgin Baylor statue. Baylor joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chick Hearn, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Jerry West as Lakers who are enshrined in Star Plaza outside Staples Center.
The ceremony drew a who’s who of NBA royalty, most notably former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell. Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O’Neal and West were among those to speak during the event that was emceed by Stu Lantz.
While Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson and of course West were well aware of just how talented Baylor was, O’Neal was of a different generation. “Elgin, I’m a little young to now about you,” he said.
“But when you listen to guys like Magic Johnson, Dr. J, and (Michael) Jordan talk about the greats, your name always came up. So finally I Googled you.
“And let me say, you were a bad man. Seventy-one points? I only had 61. Executive of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and you did all that while in the Army Reserve. I never knew that. … And, you’re a good looking dude!”
Baylor was selected by Minneapolis No. 1 overall in the 1958 Draft. He quickly made an impact, averaging 24.9 points per game, 15 rebounds and 4.1 assists en route to earning Rookie of the Year.
Baylor is the Lakers’ all-time leading rookie scorer with 1,742 points. Overall, the Hall-of-Famer ranks first in franchise history in rebounds (11,463), third in points (23,149) and sixth in assists (3,650).
Baylor averaged 30 points in each of the first three seasons after the team moved to Los Angeles. His stardom is credited for keeping the franchise afloat. Baylor’s 61 points against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals still resides as an all-time record.
He was 11-time All-Star over the span of a 14-year career that was spent entirely with the Lakers franchise. They retired Baylor’s No. 22 jersey on Nov. 9, 1963.
“This is definitely well-deserved,” O’Neal said. “I can remember being in high school and they always talked about the Laker greats. Your name always came up, no questions asked. I’m honored to be here.”