Before there was a LeBron James, a Michael Jordan or a Dr. J, there was Elgin Baylor.
This week LeBron made headlines talking about the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, talking about how one day he’ll have to be up on that mountain as one of the best four players to ever play the game. Whether that ends up being true or not remains to be seen, though LeBron is undoubtedly an all-timer.
What was interesting about LeBron’s comments was how he struggled to come up with his list. He mentioned Jordan, Magic and Bird as his first three, but then paused a long moment and finally mentioned Oscar Robertson has his fourth guy. I won’t knock any of those players as they, like LeBron himself, all deserve the stature they have achieved as some of the game’s greatest players.
What I find interesting, however, is that certain players always seem to be forgotten when these conversations come up. I’ve mentioned in the past that Kareem is one such player. Another is former Celtic great John Havlicek. But there may not be a player who was as great as Baylor who seems to never be mentioned by current players as the former Laker great.
When you watch the video above, you can see the roots of the modern game in his playing style. The athleticism, the fundamentals of going left and right with an ability to finish with both hands, the court vision he possessed and the flair in which he passed. These are all traits of modern wings and we often credit guys like Magic, Bird, or even Robertson as the guys who pioneered this style. But, in reality, Baylor predates them all and built his hall of fame career on these skills.
So enjoy the clip above. Baylor may not be the first guy mentioned as one of the all-timers, but he really should be.