By: The Nugg Doctor
True originals are hard to find. In a post-modern era it would seem like everyone is just a charcoal rubbing of someone else’s ideas with a personal flare or tweak. Indeed dying breeds are the innovators and pioneers in all walks of life. That is why the Nugg Doctor has chosen Elgin “The Godfather of High flyers” Baylor for this installment of Historical Glimpses.
Elgin Baylor was to basketball what the Wright brothers were to aviation. He took a totally infantile concept and made it into something that seems second nature now. Baylor can be credited with taken the NBA into the air with his artistic grace, power and knack for mid-air improvisation. This is all from a man who hadn’t even seen basketball on television until the age of 15.
Baylor would attend the University of Seattle and play on their varsity basketball team for only two years. In the two years that he played he averaged 29.7 and 32.5 points a game. He single handedly carried Seattle to the NCAA championship game in 1958, only to be beaten by a perennial powerhouse in Kentucky. Regardless, Baylor would be drafted number one overall that next summer by the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers were in desperate need for a showman and main attraction. Elgin was the perfect fit. Elgin would take home rookie of the year, scoring 24.9 points and squeezing 15 rebounds, as if he was the only rookie in the league.
Minneapolis soon moved to Los Angeles and took Baylor’s scoring prowess with them. Once moving to L.A., Baylor would have his best season ever, including some humungous personal records. In the 1960-61 season Elgin’s game was at an all-time peak. He would score at a dizzying 34.8 points a game. He would grab 19.8 boards and hand out 5.1 assists. He also scored a then record of 71 points in a single game. A year to behold in the realm of greatness in the NBA.
A championship ring would just barely elude him throughout his career. He played in eight championship series in total, before retiring just nine games into the ’71 –’72 season. Talk about bad timing, the Lakers would win the NBA crown at the conclusion of that year. Ring or no ring, Elgin Baylor had an impact on the NBA that is still apparent today.
Elgin Baylor was the visionary that paved the way for the likes of Erving, Hawkins, Thompson, and Jordan. His swoops to the basket and mid-flight decision-making will forever mark him as one of the greatest scorers of all-time. He would end his career being a lifetime double-double player. His regular season resume reads like this; 27.4 points a game, 4.3 assists, and an astonishing 13.5 errant shots caromed. He did this in a pre-three point era when scoring was just starting to become an art form. He was All-NBA first team ten times, a NBA All-Star eleven years in a row, holds the record for the most points scored in a Finals game at 61, no one will ever wear 22 in a Lakers jersey again, and he was enshrined to the Hall of Fame in 1976. Elgin, your greatness is still shining through in every game played still today. When you see a spectacular reverse, or a player hanging in mid-air and then some how finding a way to score. Remember Elgin Baylor. The Godfather of High Flyers.