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Baylor, Elgin







Baylor, Elgin

Baylor, Elgin (1934- ), American basketball player, one of the greatest forwards in the history of the game. Standing 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) tall, Baylor was one of the best rebounders ever and could score with a dazzling variety of acrobatic moves. Baylor’s career scoring average of 27.4 points per game, compiled from 1958 to 1971, remains among the top five in National Basketball Association (NBA) history.

Baylor was born in Washington, D.C. Despite the fact that he did not play basketball until his early teens, in high school he became a star and earned All-American honors. A poor student, Baylor could not gain entrance into any major East Coast college. He received a scholarship from the College of Idaho in 1954 and played there for one year before transferring to Seattle University. After sitting out one season to regain his eligibility, Baylor emerged as one of the best college players in the country. He ranked among the top three players nationally in both scoring and rebounding his sophomore and junior years. As a junior he led Seattle to the 1958 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament championship game, where the Chieftains fell to the University of Kentucky.

Baylor left college a year early after the Minneapolis Lakers made him the top pick in the 1958 NBA draft. (The team became the Los Angeles Lakers two years later.) Baylor was named the rookie of the year during his first pro season, averaging 24.9 points and 15 rebounds per game while helping the Lakers reach the league finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics in four games. The loss was the first in a long string of disappointments for Baylor and the Lakers—they would lose in the NBA Finals seven more times, including six times to the Celtics, during his career.

In November 1960 Baylor scored 71 points against the New York Knicks to set the NBA single-game scoring record (broken soon after by Wilt Chamberlain). His two best seasons were probably 1960-61, when he averaged 34.8 points and 19.8 rebounds per game, and 1961-62, when he averaged 38.3 points and 18.6 rebounds. Baylor scored 61 points in one game of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Celtics, a playoff record that lasted for more than two decades.

Baylor injured his knee in 1965, hampering his play in the latter half of his career. He retired nine games into the 1971-72 season—ironically, the year the Lakers won their first league title since 1954. Despite his prolific play, Baylor never won a league scoring title, most valuable player (MVP) award, or NBA championship. He coached the New Orleans Jazz (now the Utah Jazz) for several years and later became an executive with the Los Angeles Clippers. Baylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.