When the Los Angeles Lakers made Elgin Baylor the latest superstar in the team’s storied history to receive a statue in front of Staples Center, they were honoring one of the NBA’s first great players.
One who set the stage for legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. “What I’m going to really remember about Elgin Baylor is the fact that he still holds the NBA Finals record for scoring 61 points in the Boston Garden,” said Johnson.
“Do I have to go down the list of people who didn’t do that? Including myself? Man, 61 points in the NBA Finals? On the road?”
That achievement was just one of many in a historic career from Baylor, who at 6’5 averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds over the course of an illustrious career that included a Rookie of the Year Award and 11 All-Star Game selections.
Baylor also ranked in the top-10 in scoring in 10 of his 14 NBA seasons. Additionally, he was instrumental in establishing the Lakers’ foothold in Los Angeles sporting culture at a time when the team wasn’t so much as a blip on the radar.
“We’re so blessed to be able to honor a man who really kicked it off for the Lakers here in Los Angeles when they played at the Sports Arena. A man who really put entertainment into the NBA. A man that was so dominant not only on the court but off the court,” Johnson said.
“I’m happy that we did it now and not after he couldn’t see it and his family couldn’t see it. That he’s actually here and that we get to honor him today with this beautiful statue.”
Baylor’s statue immortalized his signature style, featuring him effortlessly gliding through the air towards the basket, a fitting honor for the NBA’s first high-flyer.
His athleticism was something that left Johnson particularly impressed as he turned to address Baylor on stage at the ceremony and said, “Brother, you did some things that Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Kobe, myself, we couldn’t do it.
“And I tried to do it, I just couldn’t hang that long in the air,” Johnson added with a laugh.
Hanging in the air was never Johnson’s specialty, but he did clearly relish the opportunity to use his signature facilitation skills to set up a Lakers legend one more time.
“He is such an incredible man,” Johnson said of Baylor. “We are so honored to be able to honor him today and I’m happy that Jeanie Buss put this statue up for a man who deserves it. It’s well-earned. We’re just so proud as an organization to be able to do this.”