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L E’s Stories – “He Was Magic For The Lakers Long Before Magic For The Lakers” – The Story Of NBA Legend Elgin Baylor

Bone Daddy grew up a huge Boston Celtics fan….which meant there was no way that he could ever admit that he liked any player that wore purple and gold for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers….so, it wasn’t  until he was a teenager that he admitted to really liking Lakers Hall of Fame Forward Elgin Baylor….for this cat was Magic before Magic Johnson was even a “gleam in his Daddy’s eye”….cuz albeit Elgin Baylor was a forward, the fact remains that he brought the ball up the court more than his fair share of the time….and was the team play maker for the better part of a decade….along with Lakers G Jerry West.  So, the original Sportsphile, Bone Daddy, grew up with a love for basketball….while adoring all things Celtics green, especially Bill Russell and Bob Cousy….but secretly loving the game of Lakers F Elgin Baylor….so, this story is nothing but fun for me to tell about this awesome basketball player and basketball mind named Elgin Baylor.                                                                                                                                                                    

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Lakers Special – “Elgin Baylor: Most Underrated Player In NBA History”                                       

Elgin Baylor is an American former professional basketball  player, coach and executive….who played 14 seasons as a forward in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers….while appearing in eight NBA Finals.  Baylor was a gifted shooter, a strong rebounder and an accomplished  passer….who was renowned for his acrobatic maneuvers on the court….as Baylor regularly dazzled Lakers fans and Bone Daddy with his trademark hanging jump shots….when the # 1 draft pick in 1958….who NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959….as well as an 11-time NBA All-Star….and a 10-time member of the All-NBA  1st team….for he is regarded as one of the game’s all-time greatest players.  In 1977, Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.                                            

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Lakers Special – Elgin Baylor Scouting Video – “Best All Around Basketball Player Ever Candidate”                                                                                                                                                                      

Baylor spent 22 years as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. He won the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2006 before being relieved of his duties shortly before the 2008–09 season began….but the truth be known is that the Los Angeles Clippers has never had any owner who really wanted to be an NBA champion….that is until Steve Ballmar bought the team in 2014…..which was when then Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling, was publicly exposed as a racist.                                                                                                                               

NBA & News – CNN’s Anderson Cooper Interviews Elgin Baylor And His Wife – “Is Donald Sterling A Racist?”                                                                                                                                                                           

His popularity led to appearances on the television series Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In in 1968….the Jackson Five’s first TV special in 1971….and a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode, “Olympiad”….. and the height of his career was in the early to mid-1960’s….which was just at the beginning of the Golden Age of Televised Sports…..so, Elgin Baylor was spinning his magic in the NBA game just before sports started to proliferate the TV screen.                                                                                                                                

NBA – 2018 – Los Angeles Lakers Special – Bill Withers’ PRICELESS Speech At The Elgin Baylor Lakers Statue Unveiling

Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor had two basketball-playing brothers, Sal and Kermit.  After stints at Southwest Boys Club and Brown Jr. High, Baylor was a three-time All-City player in High School…..when Elgin played his first two years at Phelps Vocational High School in the 1951 and 1952 seasons….where he set his first area scoring record of 44 points vs. Cardozo.  During his two All-City years at Phelps, he averaged 18.5 and 27.6 points per season….but he did not perform well academically….and dropped out of school (1952–53) to work in a furniture store….and play basketball in the local recreational leagues. Baylor reappeared for the 1954 season playing for the newly-opened Spingarn High School….and the 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m), 190 lb (86 kg) senior was named 1st-team All-Met….while winning the SSA’s Livingstone Trophy as the area’s best basketball player for 1954….when he finished with a 36.1 average for his eight Inter-high Division II league games.  On February 3, 1954, in a game against his old Phelps team, he scored 31 in the first half…..as well as playing with four fouls the entire 2nd half, Baylor scored 32 more points to establish a new DC-area record with 63 points…..which broke the point record of 52 that Western’s Jim Wexler had set the year before when he broke Rabbit’s record of 44.                                                   

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Lakers Special – Elgin Baylor’s Best Career Highlights

An inadequate scholastic record kept him out of college until a friend arranged a scholarship at the College of Idaho….where he was expected to play basketball and football….when after one season, the school dismissed the head basketball coach and restricted the scholarships….and that is when a Seattle car dealer interested Baylor in Seattle University…..so, Baylor sat out a year to play for Westside Ford, an AAU team in Seattle….while establishing eligibility at Seattle.  The Minneapolis Lakers drafted him in the 14th round of the 1956 NBA Draft….but Baylor opted to stay in school instead.                                                         

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Special – Elgin Baylor – “The Rabbit”                                                                                               

During the 1956–57 season, Baylor averaged 29.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game for Seattle.  The next season, Baylor averaged 32.5 points per game and led the Seattle University Chieftains (now known as the Redhawks) to the NCAA championship game….which was Seattle’s only trip to the Final Four…..while falling to the Kentucky Wildcats.  Following his junior season, Baylor was drafted again by the Minneapolis Lakers with the # 1 pick in the 1958 NBA Draft….and this time he opted to leave school to join them for the 1958–59 NBA season.                                                                                                             

NCAAM Basketball – 1958 – National Championship Game Highlights – Seattle Chieftains Vs Kentucky Wildcats – Featuring Seattle’s Elgin Baylor Soring 25 Pts + 17 Rebs

Over three collegiate seasons, one at College of Idaho and two at Seattle, Baylor averaged 31.3 points per game and 19.5 rebounds per game.  He led the NCAA in rebounds during the 1956–57 season…..and any way you cut the pie….those are tremendous numbers…..especially for a player who was just 6′ 5″ tall….I mean 20 rebounds a game for the season by basically a small forward….cuz in this lil ole chiweenie Sportsphile’s opinion….the only other “undersized rebounder” to ever play in the NBA that even came close to Baylor’s rebounding prowess was Dennis “The Worm” Rodman….and he was 3 inches taller at 6′ 8″…..which is typically a significant height advantage in the game of basketball.                                                                                         

NBA – 1959 – Regular Season Game Highlights – Minneapolis Lakers Vs Cincinnati Royals – Featuring Elgin Baylor

Fifty-one years after Baylor left Seattle University, they named its basketball court in honor of him on November 19, 2009.  The Redhawks now play on the Elgin Baylor Court in Seattle’s Key Arena…..plus, the Redhawks also host the annual Elgin Baylor Classic basketball tournament.  In June 2017, The College of Idaho had Baylor as one of the inaugural inductees into the school’s Hall of Fame.                                                      

NBA – 2014 – Lakers Special – Elgin Baylor’s 80th Birthday Tribute To His Career

The Minneapolis Lakers used the # 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA draft to select Baylor….and then convinced him to skip his senior year at SU and instead join the pro ranks. The team, several years removed from its glory days of George Mikan, was in trouble on the court and at the gate.  The year prior to Baylor’s arrival, the Lakers finished 19–53 with a squad that was slow, bulky and aging.  Baylor, whom the Lakers signed to play for $20,000 per year (equivalent to $180,000 in 2019), was the franchise’s last shot at survival.                                                                                                                                                                    

NBA – 1959 – NBA All Star Game Highlights – With Elgin Baylor + Bob Cousy Et Al

With his superb athletic talents and all-round game, Baylor was seen as the kind of player who could save a franchise, and he did. According to Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short in a 1971 interview with the Los Angeles Times was heard to say “If he had turned me down then, I would have been out of business. The club would have gone bankrupt.”

 

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – NBA TV Special With Charlie Steiner – Career Profile Of Legendary Laker F Elgin Baylor

As a rookie in 1958–59, Baylor finished 2nd in the league in scoring (24.9 points per game), 3rd in rebounding (15.0 rebounds per game), and 8th in assists (4.1 assists per game)….which ain’t too shabby for a rookie…..when he registered 55 points in a single game….which was then the 3rd-highest mark in league history behind Joe Fulks’ 63 and George Mikan’s 61…..as Baylor won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award….and led the Lakers from last place the previous year to the NBA finals….where they lost to Bone Daddy’s Celtics in the first four-game sweep in finals history….and thus began the greatest rivalry in the history of the NBA.  During his career, Baylor helped lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals seven more times.

 

NBA – 1958 – Lakers Special – “The Arrival of Elgin Baylor + Jerry West”                                                                

From the 1960–61 to the 1962–63 seasons, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3 and 34.0 points per game, respectively.  On November 15 of the 1960–61 season, Baylor set a new NBA scoring record when he scored 71 points in a victory against the New York Knick…. while also grabbing 25 rebounds….and in doing so, Baylor had broken his own NBA record of 64 points that he had set in the previous season.                                

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Special Highlights – Elgin Baylor Dunks On Bill Russell

Baylor, a United States Army Reservist, was called to active duty during the 1961–62 season….and being stationed in Washington, he could play for the Lakers only when on a weekend pass.  Despite playing only 48 games during the 1961–62 season, he still managed to score over 1,800 points.  Later that season, in a Game 5 of the NBA Finals victory against the Boston Celtic….that is when Baylor grabbed 22 rebounds and set the still-standing NBA record for points in an NBA Finals game with 61.                                           

NBA – 1962 NBA Finals Game 5 – Boston Celtics Vs Los Angeles Lakers – With Elgin Baylor’s 61 Pts + 22 Rebounds – Current NBA Finals Record

Baylor began to be hampered by knee problems during the 1963–64 season…..as the problems culminated in a severe knee injury suffered during the 1965 Western Division playoffs….when Baylor, while still a very powerful force, was never quite the same….and never again averaging above 30 points per game.                                                                                                                                                                        

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Lakers Special – “The Greatness Of Elgin Baylor”                                                                       

Baylor finally retired nine games into the 1971–72 season because of his nagging knee problems. The timing of his retirement caused him to miss two great achievements….when the Lakers’ next game after his retirement was the 1st of an NBA-record 33 consecutive wins….and then the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship that season….as the Lakers awarded Baylor a 1972 Championship Ring even though he had retired earlier.                                                                                                                                                           

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Lakers Special – “The Top Five Elgin Baylor Moments”                                                                     

Baylor was the last of the great undersized forwards in a league….. where as many guards are now his size or bigger.  He finished his playing days with 23,149 points, 3,650 assists and 11,463 rebounds over 846 games.  His signature running bank shot, which he was able to release quickly and effectively over taller players, led him to numerous NBA scoring records, several of which still stand.                                                  

NBA – 1963 – NBA Finals Game 6 Highlights – Boston Celtics Vs L A Lakers – Featuring Elgin Baylor 28 Pts 9 Reb 6 Asst

The 71 points Baylor scored on November 15, 1960, was a record at the time…..while the 61 points he scored in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1962 is still an NBA Finals record.  An underrated rebounder, Baylor averaged 13.5 rebounds per game during his career….which included  a remarkable 19.8 rebounds per game during the 1960–61 season…. which is a season average exceeded by only five other players in NBA history…..where all of whom were 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) or taller.

 

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Special – “Elgin Baylor Scouting Video” – Best All Around Basketball Player Ever Candidate

A 10-time All-NBA 1st Team selection and 11-time NBA All-Star, Baylor was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was named to the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1980…. and the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996….then in 2009,  SLAM Magazine ranked him # 11 among its Top 50 NBA players of all time…..and he is often listed as the greatest NBA player never to win a championship.                                                                                                                                                   

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Wilt Chamberlain Profiles His Greatest Player Of All Time – Los Angeles Lakers F Elgin Baylor

The first biography of Elgin Baylor was written by SLAM Online contributor Bijan C. Bayne, and published by Rowman and Littlefield.  On April 6, 2018, Baylor appeared at Staples Center as a VIP guest during the Lakers vs. Timberwolves game….when a statue was unveiled in his honor prior to the event.                                          

NBA – 1949 To 1988 – Special  – “The Laker Dynasty” – Featuring Miken + Baylor + West + Chamberlain + Jabbar + Magic + Kobe + Shaq

In 1974, Baylor was hired to be an assistant coach and later the head coach for the New Orleans Jazz….but had a lackluster 86–135 record and retired following the 1978–79 season.  In 1986, Baylor was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers as the team’s vice president of basketball operations…..where he stayed in that capacity for 22 years before reportedly resigning in October 2008 at the age of 74.  During his tenure, the Clippers managed only two winning seasons and amassed a win-loss record of 607 and 1153.  They also won only one playoff series during this time.                                                                                        

NBA – 1958 To 1971 – Wilt Chamberlain Archives Special – Lakers Kobe Bryant On Elgin Baylor

NBA – 2018 – L A Lakers Statue Of Elgin Baylor Unveiling Ceremony – Heartfelt Speech By Teammate Jerry West

Baylor was selected as the NBA Executive of the Year in 2006….when  the Clippers won their first playoff series since 1976….while  the franchise was located in Buffalo, New York, and named the Buffalo Braves.  In February 2009, Baylor filed an employment discrimination  lawsuit against the Clippers and team owner Donald Sterling, team president Andy Roeser and the NBA…..as he alleged that he was underpaid during his tenure with the team….and then fired because of his age and race.  Baylor later dropped the racial discrimination claims in the suit…..then Baylor’s remaining claims were rejected by a Los Angeles state court jury on March 30, 2011, by a unanimous 12–0 vote.                                                                        

NBA – 2018 – 60 Days of Summer Interview With NBA Lakers HOF Elgin Baylor

As I finish telling this story about one of the truly greatest basketball players to ever grace a basketball court, Elgin Baylor, I can’t seem to diminish my memories of Bone Daddy telling me how many times he was Elgin Baylor playing one-on-one with some neighborhood friend who was Bob Pettit, Jerry West or Oscar Robertson….but that was of course when he wasn’t playing some Celtic like Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohm or Bailey Howell….cuz as a kid back then who loved the game of basketball, you always wanted to make believe that you were playing like one of your heroes….as Elgin Baylor was to Bone Daddy….which makes this story very special to me.  I hope the videos posted within this story portray the incredible talent that “Rabbit” was ….cuz there is no question that Elgin Baylor deserves his showcase here at ImaSportsphile.  As a point of interest, the video below brought back fond memories to our Bone Daddy…..who grew up with a Dad that was a career pilot for the better part of 50 years….when he actually flew a DC-3, like the one seen in the video herewith….as the calm and calculated reaction and heroics of the Laker’s pilot, Harold Gifford, made BD comment….“Like Mr.Gifford, my Dad would have also gotten the Lakers safely on the ground after being caught in a terrible snow/ice storm”

 

NBA – 1960 – Lakers Special – A Laker Life: “The Man Who Saved The Lakers”

 

 

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