Elgin Baylor was born in Washington, D.C., in 1934. An All-American at Seattle University, he led the team to the 1958 NCAA finals. That same year the Minneapolis Lakers selected Baylor with the number one pick in the NBA draft. Over his 14-year career, Baylor was one of the most dominant scorers in the league. Knee problems forced Baylor to retire partway through the 1971-72 season.
Elgin Gay Baylor was born on September 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C. An exceptionally strong and athletic forward, Baylor helped redefine the game of basketball, with an acrobatic style of play that the stage for later National Basketball Association greats like Julius Irving and Michael Jordan.
A gifted athlete almost from the time he could walk, Baylor struggled in the classroom and at one point dropped out of high school, filling his time with a job at a furniture store and playing hoops in various recreational leagues.
Eventually Baylor returned to the classroom. His poor high-school grades, however, nearly shut him out of college, until a friend arranged for him to attend the College of Idaho. Baylor lasted just one year at the school. After the team's coach was dismissed, the college rescinded its scholarship to the young forward.
In the fall of 1956, Baylor, who'd sat out of school for a full year, enrolled at Seattle University, which he unexpectedly led to the NCAA championship game in 1958. Baylor's two years at Seattle put him on the radar of every NBA scout. Most eye-popping was his scoring, as the young forward averaged just over 31 points per game.
In 1958 the Minneapolis Lakers, a struggling franchise on the verge of bankruptcy, selected Baylor with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Signed to an unprecedented $20,000-a-year contract, Elgin Baylor quickly adapted to the pro game. During his rookie season he racked up 55 points in one game, and finished the year fourth in scoring and third in rebounding.
More surprisingly, he resurrected the Lakers franchise, helping the club improve its record by 14 wins over the previous season and leading the team to the 1959 NBA Finals. But in the championship round Baylor and his teammates were swept by Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.
The meeting with the Celtics and the result both proved to be a recurring theme for the Baylor-led Lakers. Over the next decade the two franchises met six more times in the NBA Finals, and in every case the Celtics prevailed.
But the losses were not on account of Baylor. As his career progressed, Baylor proved to be one of the most dynamic and prolific scorers the game has ever produced. In 1960, his second season in the league, Baylor poured in 71 points against the New York Knicks, establishing a new NBA scoring record. In the 1962 finals, Baylor outplayed everyone on the court, scoring 61 points in Game 5 of the series alone, but again weathered another defeat by the Boston Celtics.
Beginning with the 1963-64 season, Baylor experienced knee problems. While still an offensive force, he never dominated the game as he did during the first five seasons of his career. In all, Baylor played 14 years in the NBA, all with the Lakers. And while playing with the likes of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, he made the franchise a perennial winner, but he never won an NBA title.
After sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the 1971 season, Baylor returned the following year, but managed to play in only nine games before retiring. His career averages included 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. He was named a member of the All-NBA First Team in 10 of his 14 seasons and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977.
Not long after retiring, Baylor became a coach. After three years as an assistant coach for expansion team the New Orleans Jazz, he became head coach during the 1976-77 season. He finished out the year and continued to lead the franchise for two more years.
In 1986, the Los Angeles Clippers hired Baylor as vice president of basketball operations, a position he held for the next 22 seasons.
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