On April 22, 1958, the Minneapolis Lakers selected Elgin Baylor with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. He spent two seasons playing in Minneapolis, then the remaining 12 years of his career playing for the franchise in Los Angeles.
Although he tends to be forgotten among the greats to play the game, Baylor was a pioneer. He introduced a jump shot to the sport and had an array of offensive moves that included flying through the air like today’s athletes commonly do.
Lakers president of basketball operations and fellow Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson lauded Baylor for playing the game with a style and flare that he and others could not mimic. Kobe Bryant happily admitted that he used Baylor as a muse to learn from.
Baylor averaged 24.9 points per game, 15 rebounds and 4.1 assists en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors. He’s the Lakers’ all-time leading rookie scorer with 1,742 points. It’s an accomplishment all the more remarkable when considering Baylor did not have the benefit of a three-point line.
Baylor ranks first in franchise history in rebounds (11,463), third in points (23,149) and sixth in assists (3,650). He averaged 30 points in each of the first three seasons after the team moved to Los Angeles, helping them establish a foothold in the city that still lasts to this day.
Baylor’s 61 points against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals still stands as an all-time record. The Lakers retired Baylor’s No. 22 jersey on Nov. 9, 1963, and honored him with a statue outside Staples Center on April 6, 2018.