The NBA and Laker community lost one of the greatest players to ever play in Elgin Baylor as he passed away at the age of 86.
Elgin Baylor, who played all 14 of his seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, has always been regarded as one of the greats being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 and being included in the 50 Greatest NBA Players honored back in 1996.
Many of the people today may not have seen him play, or maybe some haven’t really heard of him. He played the majority of his career in the ’60s, a decade that was highlighted by the rivalry between legendary centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, the latter winning 8 consecutive championships from 1959-1966.
He may not have won as many titles as Bill, or have scored as dominantly as Wilt, that does not take away the fact that he was one of the best.
How good was he?
Let’s take a look at his career to understanding how good he really was.
Most Points in a Finals Game
One of Elgin’s best career accomplishments is having the record for the most points in a single NBA Finals Game. He scored 61 points in game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals and that is still a record to this day.
The only person that has come close would be Michael Jordan and Rick Barry who each scored 55 points in a Finals game. His 61 points is also the second highest ever in a playoff game, only behind MJ’s famous 63.
3rd Highest Points Per Game Average in a Finals Series
Elgin is one of only three players to ever average 40+ points in a single Finals series. In the 1962 Finals, he averaged a whopping 40.6 points per game, that only trails Michael Jordan (41.0 ppg in 1993) and Rick Barry (40.8 ppg in 1967).
3rd Highest Career Points Per Game Average
Elgin Baylor was one of the game’s greatest scorers. Getting buckets in the Finals was no surprise because it’s what he did every single game. He has the 3rd highest career scoring average in NBA history with 27.36 points per game. He is only behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain who have over 30 points per game each.
Let’s not forget that he played at a time where there was no three-point line so that just makes his scoring averages a little more significant.
71 Points in a Game
Elgin Baylor is tied for the 8th highest scoring game in NBA history with 71 points in a game back in 1960. His 71 points was the Laker record until a guy named Kobe Bryant broke it with 81 points in 2006.
The only 3 people who have ever scored more than him in a game are Wilt, Kobe, and David Thompson. To add to his 71-point game, he also scored 64 and 63 points in a game respectively.
10th Highest Career Rebounds Per Game Average
Aside from being a bonafide scorer, he was a beast on the boards. Elgin has the 10th highest career rebounds average in NBA history at 13.55 rebounds a game. The top 9 in that category are all centers, and with Baylor being a small forward with a height of only 6’5”, you can only imagine how much he had to fight to get those rebounds.
To put things into perspective, he averages more rebounds than other great rebounders like Kareem, Moses Malone, Dennis Rodman, Shaq, and so much more.
With his scoring and rebounding averages, he was one of only four players to ever average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in their career. The other three being Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Pettit, and Karl Malone.
He never won league MVP, but Elgin Baylor still racked up some individual awards as well. The number one overall pick in the 1958 NBA draft, Elgin was an 11-time All-Star, he was the 1959 Rookie of the Year, and he was even the 1959 All-Star Game MVP. He even had 10 First Team All-NBA team selections, and only Kobe, LeBron, and Karl Malone have more.
Elgin Baylor was an absolute icon for basketball. Before Kobe, MJ, and Dr. J, everyone says that Elgin was that guy. He was one of the league’s first high flyers, dunking above big men, and finishing crazy layups in the lane. His impact outside of basketball was also greatly felt as he was a civil rights activist, and had a great influence on his fellow players, as well as the fans.
Elgin may be gone, but his impact and legacy will forever be remembered and felt around the league, and within the Lakers family.
RIP Elgin Baylor.
Featured Image: Dick Raphael/Getty Images