With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958-59′ NBA draft, the Minneapolis Lakers selected small forward Elgin Baylor out of the University of Seattle. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Baylor was known for his enticing combination of strength and grace as well as his endless variety of acrobatic fakes.
Whether it was back to the basket moves or bullying his way through the defense for a layup or dunk, Baylor’s unique way of scoring earned him the respect and adoration of all Lakers’ fans at the time. One year prior to Baylor’s arrival the rugged and worn Lakers’ had finished with an abysmal record of 19-53, prompting a desperate financial run for the promising Baylor.
In only his second year, after clinching Rookie of the Year mind you, Baylor would go on to make NBA history at the Mecca of the NBA, Madison Square Garden. On November 15, 1960, Elgin Baylor set a then NBA record of 71 points, leading the Lakers to a 123-108 victory over the New York Knicks. He also gobbled up 25 rebounds to accommodate his monumental performance.
What makes Baylor’s scoring explosion so prominent is the fact that, back then, there were no such thing as three-pointers, and for Baylor to reach 71 on an opposing defense, in enemy territory, is truly remarkable.
The lack of a three-point line at the time probably robbed Baylor of an even higher point total, but who could possibly find fault with a performance like that. Baylor would go on to further engrave his name in the record books. He led the Lakers to eight NBA Finals, was a 10-time All NBA First-Team Selection, an 11-time NBA All-star, and became the first NBA player to finish in the top five in four different statistical categories — scoring, rebounding, assists, and free-throw percentage.
To this day, Baylor’s amazing game is tied for the eight highest scoring game in in NBA history, and he is one of only two wing players to have scored 70 points in a game along with David Thompson and, of course, Kobe Bryant.