Local Sports

Lakers Great, Elgin Baylor, Dies

Hall of Fame forward, Elgin Baylor, died Monday of natural causes in Los Angeles with wife Elaine and daughter Krystal by his side, the team said. He was 86.


Baylor changed the very direction of basketball when he joined the NBA and brought his vertical feats of athletic brilliance to a largely horizontal game.


He filled scoresheets and sparked young imaginations with his trailblazing aerial style, and every high-flying player of the past 60 years has followed his path.


Although the Lakers’ first superstar in Los Angeles never won a championship ring, Baylor still looms high above the franchise and the game he loved.


An 11-time All-Star who soared through the 1960s with high-scoring artistry that became the model for the modern basketball player, Baylor played a major role in revolutionizing basketball from a ground-bound sport into an aerial show.


With a silky-smooth jumper and fluid athleticism, Baylor spent parts of 14 seasons with the Lakers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, teaming with Jerry West in one of the most potent tandems in basketball history.


Baylor was the first NBA player to score 70 points in a game, and he still holds the single-game NBA Finals scoring record with 61 against Boston in 1962. He averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds over his career, and he even averaged a career-best 38 points during a season in which he only played on weekend passes while on active duty as an Army reservist.


Baylor’s Lakers lost six times in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics and another time to the New York Knicks. Los Angeles won the 1971-72 title, but only after Baylor retired nine games into the season, dissatisfied with his standard of play due to his ailing knees.


After struggling academically in high school, Baylor played at Seattle University from 1956-58, averaging 31.3 points a game and leading the team to the 1958 NCAA championship game, where it lost to coach Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats.


Baylor was the No. 1 NBA draft pick in 1958 by the Minneapolis Lakers, who were near bankruptcy after a steep fall from their first championship era. Baylor immediately saved the Lakers with his scoring and style.


He won the Rookie of the Year award and led the Lakers to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the fledgling Celtics dynasty in the first of the rivals’ 12 championship series meetings.


Besides his wife and daughter, Baylor is survived by a son and daughter, Alan and Alison, from a previous marriage, and sister Gladys Baylor Barrett.

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