Elgin Baylor, Lakers Legend and Basketball Hall of Famer, Dies at 86

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2021

NBA Hall of Fame and former player, Elgin Baylor speaks at an event before an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers announced that team legend and NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor died of natural causes on Monday. He was 86.

The team released the following statement:

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers


Baylor spent 14 NBA seasons with the Lakers (1958-72), with the first two coming in Minneapolis before the team moved West. He averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game and was an 11-time All-Star, a 10-time first-team All-NBA selection and the 1958-59 Rookie of the Year. 

His best statistical season came in 1961-62, when he averaged a whopping 38.3 points and 18.6 rebounds per game. He was one of his generation's most innovative players, bringing a high-flying style later emulated by players like Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and many of today's wing players in an era when centers dominated. 

Shahan Ahmed @shahanLA

“Personally, I’d like to thank you because I’ve stole so many of your moves, it’s not even funny.” - Kobe Bryant to Elgin Baylor in 2018. Elgin truly was THAT great. RIP to a legend. (Via @RyanWardLA) https://t.co/EYJxGS7rmc

Logan Murdock @loganmmurdock

elgin baylor laid the foundation for how the modern nba wing plays. he will be missed but his influence will live forever. rip https://t.co/Mux6ZSIGyh

Rafe Bartholomew @Rafeboogs

Dr. J in BB: A Love Story: "Even till this day, Elgin's game was probably the most influential—strong, rebounding the ball, handling in transition, making plays around the hoop, up and under, left hand, right hand, body control, hang time. He was like a guy from another planet." https://t.co/twMxJYXbGa

Harrison Faigen @hmfaigen

Growing up, one of my best friends and I would always talk Lakers in the car. His dad was always arguing that Elgin Baylor would have destroyed in today's game, and that he was super underappreciated. He was a forebear for modern wing stars. NBA wouldn't be the same without him.

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

I don't know if there is a more unappreciated or underrated great than Elgin Baylor. Had a season when he averaged 35 & 20, then had 38 & 19 the next. Had a 71-pt game. A 61-pt game in the Finals. Did all of this at 6-5! During an era when big men like Wilt & Russell ruled #RIP

🏁 Jamal Crawford @JCrossover

RIP to the Legend Elgin Baylor 🙌🏾🙏🏾.

"As a shooter, as a dribbler, Elgin Baylor had no match," NBA legend Oscar Robertson once said of Baylor, per Mike Kupper of the Los Angeles Times. "The greatest game I ever saw was a Los Angeles playoff game in Boston when the Celtics double-teamed Elgin and Jerry West, and Elgin still scored about 60 points [it was 61]."

He was also an influential figure in the Civil Rights Movement:

Anthony F. Irwin @AnthonyIrwinLA

Elgin Baylor once sat out a game because a hotel wouldn’t let him and his Black teammates stay there. This is what was written about that decision at the time. (https://t.co/G592BhqFQE) Baylor’s life on and off the court was marred by racism and he stared it down at every turn. https://t.co/7yNSY5OmNk

Dave Zirin @EdgeofSports

Best athlete to ever come out of DC (a strong statement). Best athlete to attend college in Seattle (another strong statement.) Most underrated player in NBA history (I'll defend that to the hilt.) And a vital political athlete. Rest in Peace to the legend Elgin Baylor.

And while he never won an NBA title, he would have had he not decided to end his playing career in the 1971-72 season:

Benjamin Hoffman @BenHoffmanNYT

One of the wildest things about Elgin Baylor's DRAMATICALLY UNDERRATED career is he never won a ring because he wasn't willing to not be great. He walked away during the Lakers' 71-72 championship season because he wasn't playing up to his own standards. Legend. https://t.co/oAOhH8jX9y

After his playing career, Baylor worked as an assistant coach and then head coach (1976-79) for the New Orleans Jazz, leading them to an 86-135 record.

He was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers as the team's vice president of basketball operations in 1986 and spent 22 seasons in the role.