Elgin Baylor

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Basketball player
Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor Night program.jpeg
Player information
Full name Elgin Gay Baylor
Nickname Rabbit
birthday 16th September 1934 (age 85)
place of birth Washington, DC , United States
size 196 cm
Weight 102 kg
position Small forward
college Seattle
NBA draft 1958 , 1st pick, Minneapolis Lakers
Jersey number 22nd
Clubs as active
1958–1971 Minneapolis / Los Angeles LakersUnited StatesUnited States
Clubs as coaches
1975–1979 New Orleans JazzUnited StatesUnited States

Elgin Gay Baylor (born September 16, 1934 in Washington, DC ) is a retired American basketball player . Between 1958 and 1971 he played in the North American professional league National Basketball Association (NBA) for the team of the Minneapolis Lakers / Los Angeles Lakers .

He is one of the most attacking wingers in basketball history, alongside Connie Hawkins , Rick Barry , Julius Erving , Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant . Their entire arsenal of movements and techniques, however, was unknown before Baylor. Baylor was the first to move the game to the space above the basket ring, create his own templates with rebounds and combine disciplined team and role play with the pick-up game of the urban playing areas, in which performance is in the absence of a referee subordinate to their execution. As an offensive player, Baylor never looked at his odds, but always played in a way that served the team.

He was also the coach of New Orleans Jazz from 1975 to 1979 and General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers from 1986 to 2008 .


High school and college

Raised in the US capital Washington, Baylor played at Phelps Vocational High School, where he was elected to the All-City team. Because he was getting too much attention, he left school and got a job. From 1952 to 1955 he moved to Springarn High School, which was only attended by African Americans . Baylor took part in the last city championship for colored people in 1954 before segregation in schools was lifted. In the 1950s colleges began recruiting African Americans, but Baylor failed the entrance exams. He went to the College of Idaho , which, due to its athleticism, had only offered him a football scholarship. Baylor never played football there, but instead chose NAIA basketball. After only a year, he changed schools and went to Seattle University . There he had to suspend the 56/57 season due to the change and played for the amateur Athletic Union team Westside Ford .

In the next two years Baylor was one of the best players in the NCAA . With an average of 29.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game, he was appointed to the All-American Second Team in 1957 . A year later he came after a season with 32.5 points and 19.3 rebounds even in the All-American First Team. The Seattle University team, with the exception of Baylor, made it to the finals of the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship in 1958 , but lost to the Kentucky Wildcats with 72-84. Baylor was voted Most Valuable Player (the most valuable player in the championship tournament) and then moved to the NBA. The Minneapolis Lakers voted him first in the 1958 draft .


Baylor brought instant success to the Lakers. After a season in which he was voted Rookie of the Year (the newcomer of the year), he led the Lakers to the NBA Finals , where they were subject to the Boston Celtics . In his sophomore season, Baylor broke a ten-year-old NBA record when he scored 64 points against the Celtics on November 8, 1959. For a renewed entry into the finals, however, his performance was not enough, the Lakers were subject to the St. Louis Hawks in seven games in the Western Division Finals .

In the 1950s, African-American athletes were often housed separately from their white teammates in training camps such as away games. The fans were vulgar and rowdy, as we are used to from football these days. On January 16, 1959, the Lakers should play against the Cincinnati Royals in Charleston, West Virginia. Baylor, Boo Ellis, and Ed Fleming were turned away from the hotel, however. The entire team therefore stayed in a guesthouse for colored people. When the three black Lakers could n't find a restaurant to serve them anywhere in town, with the exception of the sausage stand in Greyhound Bus Terminal, Baylor decided to boycott the game. The game was lost with four points 91-95, but more importantly: Elgin Baylor had been announced as a top attraction by local sponsors . Teammates, Coach Kundla and owner Bob Short backed Baylor while NBA President Maurice Podoloff considered a suspension. After a heated debate in the media, the mayor apologized on the phone a few days later. Two years later, Elgin Baylor was invited to the NBA All-Star Game in Charleston and stayed at the hotel that had turned him down two years earlier.

After the 1959/60 season, the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles . Baylor peaked in his first three years in Los Angeles. He made over 34 points per game in the 1960/61 season. On November 15, 1960 he scored 71 points against the New York Knicks , breaking his own record. With Jerry West , who came to the NBA in 1960, Baylor formed possibly the best duo in the league. In the 1961/62 season he achieved 38.3 points per game, the highest point average that a winger ever achieved. However, he had to do his military service in Fort Lewis , Washington that year . For the Lakers he was only allowed to play on weekends and was only able to play 48 of 80 games this season. Had he been allowed to play the whole season, he would probably have been the first winger to score 3,000 points in one season. This achievement was reserved for Michael Jordan .

In the 1961/62 and 1962/63 seasons, the Lakers were twice subject to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. In the fifth game of the final series between the Lakers and the Boston Celtics in 1962, Baylor scored 61 points, the most points ever to be scored by a player in a final game - a record that remains to this day. This mark was also the highest score in a playoff game for a long time , until Michael Jordan scored 63 points in the second game of the first round series against the Boston Celtics on April 20, 1986 (Jordan needed two overtimes for this performance).

On April 3, 1965, Baylor suffered a serious knee injury . Part of his kneecap was broken off. Dr. Robert Kerlan removed the broken third, smoothed the remaining patella, and drilled small holes in it to hold the tendons in place. He also removed the calcium deposits that were responsible for Baylor's pain. For the Lakers, the season was already over in the first play-off round, as Baylor was out for the rest of the season. After this injury, Baylor was no longer the same player. Before that, he was an acrobatic high flyer who amazed people with his inexhaustible arsenal of moves. But now, out of fear, he first lost confidence and then speed and jumping power. Accordingly, he scored only 16 points per game in the following season and was not appointed to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career .

Baylor's right leg was still covered in calcium deposits and he preferred the left leg, which made the pain worse. At the beginning of the 1965/66 season he contracted a ligament stretch and missed much of the season. With Dr. Kerlan's help, however, he was able to achieve a psychological victory over his injured body: He came back shortly before the end of the season and had the courage to put full weight on his legs. He made a comeback, scored 24 points per game and was called back to the All-NBA team. The Lakers moved into the finals again, but were again subject to the Celtics.

To break the superiority of the Bostonians, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke brought in 1968 reinforcements in the person of Wilt Chamberlain , who had defeated the Celtics in 1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers in the finals. But despite the concentrated offensive power of West, Chamberlain and Baylor, the Lakers lost two more times in the finals until 1971.

Plagued by injuries and now 36 years old, Baylor ended his career after nine games in the 1971/72 season. Ironically, that very year the Lakers won their first championship since the days of George Mikan . Baylor was assistant coach with the New Orleans Jazz in 1974 , which made him head coach in December 1976. After a rather disappointing record of 86-135 victories in three and a half years, Baylor was dismissed in 1979.

Between 1986 and 2008 he was the sporting director ( general manager ) of the Los Angeles Clippers and was awarded the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 2006. During that time, the Clippers only reached the postseason four times . Baylor sued Donald Sterling, among other Clippers owners, in February 2009 for unlawful termination of contract and age and racial discrimination after his release. Racial discrimination allegations were later withdrawn and a jury acquitted Sterling in 2011. Only three years later the NBA team owners voted to sell the Clippers and to leave Sterling because of his plantation mentality.

With a total of 23,149 points and an average of 27.4 points in 846 games, Baylor is one of the best throwers in NBA history. However, since he played in the Wilt Chamberlain era, he was never top scorer of an NBA season. But to this day (as of 2018) he is the top rebounder of the Lakers and achieved the best career point quota in the franchise. He was nine times in the finals of a championship (1 × college, 8 × NBA) and lost each time. He never won the regular season MVP award , but was in the top five in the poll for seven years, even second to Bill Russell in 1963 . Baylor was elected ten times to the All-NBA First Team and was eleven-time All-Star , in 1959 he shared the honor as MVP of the All-Star Games with Bob Pettit . The shirt number 22 of his jerseys was moved by both the Lakers and the Seattle University to retire.

On May 2, 1977, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame . His election among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the NBA was announced on October 29, 1996.

Superstar debate

Andrew Lloyd Webber stated at the time that he had borrowed the term superstar for his religious musical Jesus Christ Superstar from Andy Warhol's Warhol Superstars . However, the term appeared in connection with Elgin Baylor in a timely manner but significantly earlier than with Warhol and as early as the 1950s.

Bob Short, the buyer of the Minneapolis Lakers, had made the move of the Lakers to Los Angeles dependent on the commitment of Elgin Baylor. And indeed, the Lakers built up an entertainment empire with him on the west coast, because despite the lack of sporting success, significantly more viewers came than to Russell's Celtics or Chamberlains Warriors, for example.


  1. Elgin Baylor, who was very sensitive because of his age, said he was born in 1935. The Army has more than one date of birth on its records and his high school certificate suggests 1934 as the year of birth. At that time, however, it was not usually the date of birth that was noted, but only the age, which leaves room for errors. However, it cannot be ruled out that, for example, his scholarship may have age restrictions.


  • André Voigt: "Air Baylor", in: Five 25, 2006, pp. 72-75.
  • Bijan C. Bayne: Elgin Baylor. The Man Who Changed Basketball. Lanham / Boulder / New York / London, 2015: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4422-4570-9

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bijan C. Bayne: Elgin Baylor. The Man Who Changed Basketball. Lanham / Boulder / New York / London, 2015: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4422-4570-9 (pages 43-46, in English).
  2. ^ Nathan Fenno: Elgin Baylor lawsuit among Donald Sterling's past racial issues. On: Los Angeles Times website; Los Angeles, CA, April 26, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2018 (in English).
  3. Frank Deford: Letter to the editor. In: New York Magazine; New York City, NY, November 22, 1970. Quoted in: Bijan C. Bayne: Elgin Baylor. The Man Who Changed Basketball. Lanham / Boulder / New York / London, 2015: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4422-4570-9 (page 124f, in English).