Elgin Baylor, NBA Hall of Famer and Lakers Legend, Dies at 86: A 'Pillar' of the Game
Elgin Baylor — the NBA Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers — died Monday at age 86.
The Lakers said Baylor — who also served as the longtime general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers — died of natural causes while surrounded by his daughter Krystal, and wife Elaine. He also has a son and daughter from a previous marriage.
"Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend," Elaine said in a statement issued by the franchise. "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."
Tributes to the legendary player poured in through social media after the news broke.
"Our game lost a pillar today," Phoenix Suns player Chris Paul wrote on Twitter after the announcement. "Rest in Power to the great Elgin Baylor."
"RIP to the NBA's first high flyer, Lakers Legend, & Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor," added former Lakers players Magic Johnson, who shared pictures of himself with Baylor. "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."
Baylor was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958 and continued with the team in Los Angeles when they relocated two years later. He was selected for 11 All-Star appearances and finished his career averaging a double-double throughout his 14 seasons.
"[He was] just a kind person. Everyone talked about his basketball accolades, but he was just a kind person," basketball great and Inside the NBA co-host Charles Barkley said of Baylor during a television appearance on Monday. "I spent a lot of time with him over the years and to me, he's probably the most underrated great basketball player of all time and it was an honor and a privilege to be around him. He always carried himself with great dignity and respect."
"He is going to be missed," Barkley added. "He was one of the best to ever do it with great class and dignity."
Baylor was born on September 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C., and helped lead Seattle University to their first NCAA championship game before joining the NBA.
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Baylor never won an NBA championship, having played most of his career during a time when the Boston Celtics were dominating the league. Regardless, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977.
"Elgin was THE superstar of his era - his many accolades speak to that," Lakers Governor 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," she added. "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."