There is a statue of Elgin Baylor taking his famous sweep hook shot outside Staples Center in Los Angeles. It was unveiled in April 2018. But it was a long-awaited honor after other notable Los Angeles sports legends – Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar De La Hoya and Wayne Gretzky – have already received statues.
For Baylor, it was normal for the course. Her NBA career often didn’t get the respect it deserved.
“Before Julius Erving, before Michael Jordan, there was Elgin Baylor,” Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member Spencer Haywood told The Undefeated. “He never had the respect he was due for what he brought to the game. The best little striker to ever play.
Baylor, who died of natural causes on Monday at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, was an underrated NBA superstar.
An 11-time all-star, Baylor has averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game for his career – one of only four players in league history to average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds – and once scored a career-high 71 points in a game in 1960. The Hall of Famer went to eight NBA Finals, but never won a championship. He retired with knee injuries early in the 1971-72 Lakers’ championship season.
“Elgin set the front position for my generation in terms of buckets and bounce,” former NBA star Marques Johnson told The Undefeated. “Do one thing to finish with the creativity around the basket, backhands, hard angled spins. Was Eurostepping in the 60s. ”
But Baylor’s name is rarely mentioned in debates about the best players in the NBA. Even when NBA fans debate the biggest Lakers, Magic Johnson, O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar, West, Wilt Chamberlain, James Worthy, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James usually come to mind before Baylor.
And while Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, and Vince Carter are considered some of the greatest athletes in NBA history, Baylor had a similar athletic ability that is often overlooked as it was not regularly filmed.
“Elgin Baylor paved the way for the modern NBA as one of the league’s first superstar players,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Elgin produced remarkable results with his athleticism and revolutionary style of play, including setting an NBA Finals record with 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 Championship Series – an all the more extraordinary performance. that he had spent part of that season. away from his team while on active duty in the military.
During his career, Baylor has also faced racism. In 1959, Baylor and the Lakers faced the Cincinnati Royals in a neutral venue game in Charleston, West Virginia, where the team learned their black players could not stay at the Charleston hotel. The team moved to a motel where everyone was allowed to stay. But Baylor decided not to play in the game.
“I told the coach. I told him I wasn’t going to play, ”Baylor reminded The PostGame. “And I didn’t. We lost and the media blasted me the next day. But I thought it was the right thing to do.
“Elgin was a man of principle,” said Silver. “He was a leading activist at the height of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and an influential voice among his colleagues. After his retirement, Elgin remained a part of the NBA family as a coach and leader, passing his wisdom on to generations of NBA talent.
Baylor was the head coach of the New Orleans Jazz from 1976 to 1979, scoring an 86-135 record. He then moved to the front office as general manager of the LA Clippers from 1986 to 2008. He was named 2006 NBA Manager of the Year, but only enjoyed two winning seasons while working for the. owner Donald Sterling.
Baylor sued Sterling, among others, in February 2009 in Los Angeles Superior Court for wrongful termination and discrimination based on age and race. A jury, however, ruled in favor of Sterling in March 2011. In 2014, Baylor told CNN that Silver was right to give Sterling a lifetime ban after he was caught on tape making racist remarks. .
Former Clippers swingman Quentin Richardson has fond memories of Baylor.
“Elgin was a Hall of Fame member,” said Richardson. “He and Ms. Baylor have always been nice to my family and all my time with music videos.
It’s a shame Baylor didn’t often get his due due for an elite career in the NBA and the racial barriers he fought and overcome. But maybe one way for NBA fans to give Baylor her flowers is to place flowers on her statue.