Quantcast NBA Legends: Elgin Baylor & His Legendary Performance


Elgin Baylor: Legendary Performances


Before Julius Erving, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, there was Elgin Baylor. Baylor was an electrifying player for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers during the 1950s and 60s. He was known as one of the first players to play a wide open style, making acrobatic plays that seemed impossible to most. He was the forerunner to players like Dr. J and Air Jordan and broke new ground on a new style of basketball. But besides all the excitement of his brand of play, Elgin Baylor was a great basketball player. During his career he was often overshadowed by other giants of the game and even today his accomplishments and abilities do not get the acknowledgment they deserve.

Elgin Baylor played 14 seasons in the NBA. He spent his entire career with the Lakers (his first two seasons in Minneapolis and then the remaining years with the team in Los Angeles). Baylor was the Rookie of the Year in 1959, an 11-time All-Star and made the All-NBA first team 10 times. Baylor never won a championship or a MVP award, which may be part of the reason he often is overlooked in the discussion of greatest basketball players of all time. But his lack of winning an MVP and NBA title has more to do with the era he was in than anything else.

If Elgin Baylor had played in any other era, he still would have been a great player. He also would have more than likely won many more individual awards and probably a few championships. During the 1960s, the two main attractions in the NBA were the Boston Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain. The Boston Celtics had a dynasty, winning 11 championships in 13 season during the late 1950s and through the 1960s. They were a dominant force with a roster full of future Hall of Fame players. The Lakers also had a great run of success in the 1960s but they could never get past Boston. The Lakers made it to the NBA Finals eight times during Baylor’s career, but never came out a champion. Seven of the eight defeats in the Finals came against the Boston Celtics. So many seasons ended with disappointment for the Lakers at the hands of Boston and although L.A. had great talent of these teams and came incredibly close on occasion, they could never put it all together to win the championship.

Individually, Baylor posted incredible statistical numbers. He achieved over 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds during his career. He could pass , rebound, defend, and especially score. Baylor had games of 55 points, 64 points and 71 points in his career. During an amazing three year stretch from the 1960-61 season through the 1962-63, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3 and 34.0 points per game. These numbers easily should have been the best in the league. But unfortunately for Baylor, these seasons were at the same time Wilt Chamberlain was having some of the greatest seasons in NBA history. During the same three year period Baylor was posting these incredible scoring numbers, Wilt was doing things no one thought imaginable. Through the 1960-61 to 1962-63 seasons, Wilt averaged 38.4, 50.4 and 44.8 points per game! Once again, Baylor was overshadowed.



For his career, Elgin Baylor averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds. Very few players average career numbers of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds. And even fewer players with the athletic ability and flashy, acrobatic style average numbers that good. Michael Jordan and Julius Erving are often mentioned as two players who played the game similar to the acrobatic and exciting style of Baylor. But their career numbers (24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds for Erving, 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds for Jordan) do not match the total package of Baylor. Elgin Baylor could do almost everything on the basketball court and often did for his team. Even though he sometimes gets overlooked, his name should be mentioned with the likes of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Elgin Baylor was not only a superb athlete, great player and a pioneer of the game, he truly is a legend of basketball.



By: David Hyland
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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