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For those in the know the former LA/Minneapolis Lakers great Elgin Baylor is the best pound for pound NBA player ever.

 

 

 

SPORTS NOTES EXTRA - Better Than Jordan? ELGIN BAYLOR!!!

James Loving/National Radio Text Service

 

 

Elgin Baylor is the man who then Lakers owner Bob Short credited as saving the Lakers franchise from going bankrupt. As a rookie in 1958-59, Baylor finished fourth in the league in scoring (24.9 points per game), third in rebounding (15.0 rebounds per game), and eighth in assists (4.1 assists per game). He registered 55 points in a single game, then the third-highest mark in league history behind Joe Fulks' 63 and George Mikan's 61. Baylor won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and led the Lakers from last place the previous year to the NBA finals

 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE

When one tries to pick the greatest of all time NBA ALL-STAR team one of the problems is those expressing their opinions have little to no knowledge of the players that played before the pundits were born. We've asked numerous NBA fans and journalists if they knew about the greatness of former Lakers star Elgin Baylor who was a major force during the late 50's and throughout the 60's typically the response was NO.

With all respect to Michael Jordan who flourished during the NBA's international television exposure there is one player who was a superior NBA talent with sills that qualify him to dominate in any era. He played during an era where NBA exposure was very limited and some players had to work second jobs to make ends meet. With that said from my perspective and EXPERIENCE Baylor is the greatest player that I have ever seen.

Before he had knee problems he was the premiere scorer in the league prior to Wilt Chamberlain making his 7"1"presence and scoring prowess known.

Baylor was quick and strong. He could shoot from three point land before that rule was initiated. He could drive and rebound and perform acrobatics in the air while shooting. He was a major physical presence who was listed as being 6'5" (1.96 m) and 225 lb (102 kg). Having interviewed NBA players for over 10 years and having played on a team where six of our 12 players were 6''7" to 7' it's hard to believe as standing next to him in reflection he is the biggest 6'5" that I have ever seen.

Baylor regularly dazzled Lakers fans with his trademark hanging jump shots. The No. 1 draft pick in 1958, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959, and an 11-time NBA All-Star. In 1977, Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The then Minneapolis Lakers used the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA Draft to select Baylor following his Junior year at Seattle University and convinced him to skip his senior year at SU to join the pro ranks. The team, several years removed from its glory days of the leagues first superstar George Mikan, was in trouble on the court and at the gate. The year prior to Baylor's arrival the Lakers finished 19-53 with a squad that was slow, bulky and aging.

Baylor, whom the Lakers signed to play for $20,000 per year, was the franchise's last shot at survival. At that time is was a great amount of money as one could buy a new car for less than $2,000. With his superb athletic talents and all-round game, Baylor was seen as the kind of player who could save a franchise, and he did. According to Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short in a 1971 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "If he had turned me down then, I would have been out of business. The club would have gone bankrupt."

As a rookie in 1958-59, Baylor finished fourth in the league in scoring (24.9 points per game), third in rebounding (15.0 rebounds per game), and eighth in assists (4.1 assists per game). He registered 55 points in a single game, then the third-highest mark in league history behind Joe Fulks' 63 and Mikan's 61. Baylor won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and led the Lakers from last place the previous year to the NBA finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in the first four game sweep in finals history. Thus began the greatest rivalry in the history of the NBA. During his career, Baylor helped lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals seven more times.

From the 1960-61 to the 1962-63 seasons, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3 and 34.0 points per game, respectively. On November 15 of the 1960-61 season, Baylor set a new NBA scoring record when he scored 71 points in a victory against the New York Knicks while grabbing 25 rebounds. In doing so, Baylor had broken his own NBA record of 64 points that he had set in the previous season. Baylor, a United States Army Reservist, was called to active duty during the 1961-62 season, and being stationed in Washington state, he could play for the Lakers only when on a weekend pass. Despite playing only 48 games during the 1961-62 season, he still managed to score over 1,800 points. Later that season, in a game five NBA Finals victory against the Boston Celtics, Baylor grabbed 22 rebounds and set the still-standing NBA record for points in an NBA Finals game with 61.

Baylor began to be hampered with knee problems during the 1963-64 season. The problems culminated in a severe knee injury, suffered during the 1965 Western Division playoffs. Baylor, while still a very powerful force, was never quite the same, never again averaging above 30 points per game.

Baylor finally retired nine games into the 1971-72 season because of his nagging knee problems. The timing of his retirement could not have been worse as this caused him to coincidentally miss two great achievements. First, the Lakers' next game after his retirement was the first of an NBA record of 33 consecutive wins. Second, the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship that season. The Lakers did give Baylor a championship ring, even though he had not been an active player.

It was a sad ending for such a spectacular talent. Baylor was the last of the great undersized forwards in a league where many guards are now his size or bigger. He finished his playing days with 23,149 points (27.4 ppg), 3,650 assists (4.6 apg) and 11,463 rebounds (13.5 rpg) over 846 games. His signature running bank shot, which he was able to release quickly and effectively over taller players, led him to numerous NBA scoring records, several of which still stand.

The 71 points Baylor scored on November 15, 1960 was a record at the time. The 61 points he scored in game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1962 is still an NBA Finals record. An underrated rebounder, Baylor averaged 13.5 rebounds per game during his career, including a sterling 19.8 rebounds per game during the 1960-61 season - a season average exceeded by only five other players in NBA history-all of whom were 6'9" or taller.

Baylor's skills were recognized by some of his former teammates, opposition and coach.

* "He was one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known", Baylor's longtime teammate Jerry West told HOOP in 1992. "I hear people talking about forwards today and I haven't seen many that can compare with him."

* Bill Sharman played against Baylor and coached him in his final years with the Lakers. "I say without reservation that Elgin Baylor is the greatest cornerman who ever played pro basketball", he told the Los Angeles Times at Baylor's retirement in 1971.

* Tommy Hawkins, Baylor's teammate for six seasons and opponent for four (and later a basketball broadcaster) declared to the San Francisco Examiner that "pound for pound, no one was ever as great as Elgin Baylor." He also said, "Elgin certainly didn't jump as high as Michael Jordan. But he had the greatest variety of shots of anyone. He would take it in and hang and shoot from all these angles. Put spin on the ball. Elgin had incredible strength. He could post up Bill Russell. He could pass like Magic and dribble with the best guards in the league."

The person that can best qualify Baylor's skills against Jordan's played against Baylor as Hawkins pointed out He also saw Jordan play in his prime. That person is the former Boston Celtic great Bill Russell. The ball is now on his court.


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