Former Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor died of natural causes at the age of 86 on Monday, the NBA franchise announced.
Baylor, the number one draft pick in 1958 and Rookie of the Year in 1959, spent 14 seasons with the Lakers. He is enshrined in the Hall of Fame and was considered one of the greatest players to never win a championship.
A gifted shooter and rebounder despite his 6 ft 5 in frame, Baylor still held the record for most individual points in a single game in the NBA Finals when he scored 61 points against Lakers’ arch rivals, the Boston Celtics, in 1962.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend. And like everyone else, I was in awe of his immense courage, dignity and the time he gave to all fans,” his wife Elaine said in a statement.
Baylor’s number 22 jersey was retired and hangs in the rafters of Staples Center while the 11-times NBA All-Star was immortalized in a statue that stands outside the arena.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era, his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss said.
“He was one of the few Lakers players whose career spanned from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
“But more importantly he was a man of great integrity, even serving his country as a U.S. Army reservist, often playing for the Lakers only during his weekend pass.”
After his retirement, Baylor coached the New Orleans Jazz before he was hired as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers, spending 22 years in that role.
“RIP to the NBA’s first high flyer, Lakers legend and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor,” former Lakers guard and former team president Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
“Before there was Michael Jordan doing amazing things in the air, there was Elgin Baylor.”
Voice of America – English