NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor passed away peacefully of natural causes earlier today in Los Angeles at the age of 86 with his wife Elaine and daughter Krystal at his side, according to the Lakers.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” his wife said. “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.”
One of six Laker legends to have a statue outside of Staples Center (Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and former team announcer Chick Hearn are the others), Baylor played all 14 of his NBA seasons with the Lakers and was an 11-time All-Star with 10 First Team All-NBA appearances.
“RIP to the NBA’s first high flyer, Lakers Legend, & Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “Before there was Michael Jordan doing amazing things in the air, there was Elgin Baylor! A true class act and great man, I’ll always appreciate the advice he shared with me when I first came into the league. Cookie and I are praying for his wife Elaine, kids, and the entire Baylor family.”
Drafted first overall by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958 out of Seattle University, Baylor averaged 24.9 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a rookie en route to winning Rookie of the Year honors.
Though he was never an NBA champion, Baylor holds the single-game NBA Finals scoring record to this day: he dropped 61 points against the Celtics in 1962. Baylor also became the first player to score 70 points in a game when he went for 71 against the New York Knicks in November 1960.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era — his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “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. He is one of the all-time Lakers greats with his No. 22 jersey retired in the rafters and his statue standing guard in front of STAPLES Center. He will always be part of the Lakers legacy. On behalf of the entire Lakers family, I’d like to send my thoughts, prayers and condolences to Elaine and the Baylor family.”
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 following his retirement from the NBA in 1971, Baylor had his No. 22 jersey retired by the Lakers in November of 1983.