(Photo: Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images)
Former Los Angeles Lakers legend and current Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor turned 80 years young today. When discussing some of the greatest Lakers players of all time you usually don’t hear Baylor’s name come up and much of that has do with the fact that his career ended over 40 years ago, there is very little video of his playing days and whatever video is available is grainy.
Another reason for his lack of notoriety is since the time he’s retired he has been out of the Lakers organization. Most people today probably remember him more for his days as the Los Angeles Clippers General Manager, a position he held for 22 years before being let go in 2008.
While Baylor might not get the pub that many of the more recent superstars have received by way of living in the age of saturated coverage via numerous media channels, he is no doubt one of the greatest players to have ever played. In his 14 year NBA career, Baylor averaged 27.4 points per game, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Baylor was named to the NBA All-Star team 11 times and first team All-NBA team 10 times. Baylor is the Lakers’ franchise all-time leading rebounder with 11,463 and owns the highest career scoring average of any Lakers’ player in franchise history at 27.4 points per game.
Baylor excelled during his high school basketball playing days at Spingham High School in Washington, D.C. While Baylor had the talent to play at any big college in the country, he struggled academically which is what prompted him accepting a scholarship to little known Idaho College where he played 1 year before his scholarship was cancelled due to scholarship cut backs.
Following his time with Idaho, still without a reputable basketball program willing to loosen its eligibility requirements and take on Baylor’s poor academic record, Baylor found himself transferring to Seattle University at the behest of Seattle area auto dealer owner Ralph Malone. Malone’s interest in Baylor was twofold: helping the local basketball program and his own basketball team, Westside Ford, who were a part of the AAU Northwest League. The Northwest AAU league was made up of mainly company owned teams like Malone’s Westside Ford, such as the Puhich Cleaners and Val Kirk Pharmacy. While Baylor sat out a year to improve his academics and become eligible to play for Seattle University the following year, he played for Malone’s team and dominated.
Baylor’s play in the AAU league got the attention of the Los Angeles Lakers, so much so that they took him with their 91st pick in the 1956 NBA draft. The issue with taking him was that he was not yet eligible for the draft having only completed 1 year of college at that point.
The Lakers poor scouting cost them the draft pick of Baylor in 1956, but they got another chance two years later when they held the number 1 overall pick. This time around, with Baylor having flourished at the Seattle University in his two years and leaving for the NBA after his junior season, the Lakers took Baylor with the 1st overall pick in the 1958 draft. Two years after their draft day blunder, they got their man and the rest is Hall of Fame history.