A tragedy has hit the basketball fandom as former Los Angeles Lakers stalwart and NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor has passed away on Monday at 86 years of age.
The saddening news was announced by the Lakers via an official statement on the league’s website, where they stated that Baylor had passed away peacefully due to natural causes in Los Angeles.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” Baylor’s wife Elaine was quoted by the team statement, “and like everyone else, I was in awe of his immense courage, dignity and the time he gave to all fans. At this time we ask that I and our family be allowed to mourn his passing in privacy.”
Alongside his wife, the 11-time All-Star is survived by his sister Gladys Baylor Barrett, daughter Krystal, as well as another daughter Alison and son Alan from his previous marriage.
Elgin Baylor: A look back at one of the most decorated NBA careers of all time
A 1958 first-round draft pick out of Seattle, Elgin Baylor joined the then Minneapolis Lakers and made it his home throughout his professional career until he retired from the sport in 1971.
Alongside being an astounding 11-time All-Star, Baylor was also the All-Star Game MVP of 1959, and also won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in the same season. The Seattle Redhawks team had retired the no 22 to honor Baylor.
Although he was never crowed as the NBA Champion and is touted as one of the most underrated players of all time, Baylor along with fellow Lakers icon Jerry West paddled the team to a total of ten Finals during the 1960s and 1970s.
Throughout his NBA career, Baylor averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977.
ALSO READ: Ex-Mavericks star Shawn Bradley left paralyzed after bike accident
From military to NBA, Elgin Baylor balanced it out
As a United States Army Reservist, Elgin Baylor was called to active duty and was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington and would only play for the team during the weekends and made only 48 games in that season.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era – his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss asserted, “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.”
During that time when the Lakers was having a fierce rivalry with the Celtics, Baylor landed the greatest performance of his career, in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals in Boston Garden, which is still the record highest point achieved by a player in an NBA Finals game. He set another record in the previous season against the Knicks, scoring 71 points and 25 rebounds.
In the match where Lakers defeated Celtics 126-121 to gain a 3-2 lead over the Celtics in the series, Baylor posted an astronomical 61 points and 22 rebounds, breaking the previous record of 56 points from Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain. Celtics, however, would go on to win Game 6 and 7 to become the champions of that season.