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.
Alan Frederick says
Baylor is criminally underappreciated.
He was Bill Russell’s most feared opponent. He was only 6’5″ but his rebound totals were astounding. He could shoot anywhere and was unstoppable when driving the lane. He could spin the ball off the glass at almost impossible angles to avoid blocks, etc. His handle was exceptional. I would take him one-on-one against any of the other greats. Ask West or Russell about him.
J C says
Also often overlooked : Wilt.
Baylor Fan says
Great video clip, thank you very much for sharing. Baylor was the Laker everyone was trying to copy at a time when jumping and shooting was still a novelty.
P. Ami says
Earl Boykins, the most looked over player in NBA history.
Lebron is top 10… But his statement was premature. In any case, the Pacers will always have that quote to inspire them.
Yes,Elgin deserves some credit. Too much credit is given to MJ(as great as he was). And on the other hand, too few give Kobe credit, but even Durant references one of his moves as being “Kobe’s” move.
The Laker faithful all probably hope the next Laker great is drafted this summer… That will hopefully cross paths with a healthy Kobe, Love, and the kind of never-give-up play this year’s team has displayed.
Just throwing one name in: George Milan
I know he was sooo much taller than everyone during his time, but 7 chips in 8 years is something that just cant be overlooked….he was also the Main reason people startend wat hing Basketball back then
Also Bob cousy should be mentioned more often….i think he should get More crédit for those rings he won alongside Bill than he gets
Craig W. says
We are infatuated with rings. That is a real reason Baylor is overlooked, not just the video.
No matter what, basketball is still a team game and a single player still depends on his teammates, his coach, and his organization to win a ring. Players are still drafted to a team and the players of yesteryear didn’t have the free agent options that today’s players have – limited as they may be.
While rings should be part of a measure of a player’s greatness, they shouldn’t be the major factor. How that player changed the game and that player’s versatility in different situations and systems must be a larger part of the measure. However, as long as there is ESPN I doubt we will take the time to consider these measures fully – this is entertainment, after all.
Lebron seems to forget that he is playing in a much more finesse league. He is having it easy with the modified rules to enhance the perimeter plays. Lebron is more like a fortunate Scottie Pipen without having to play next to Michael Jordan, then against Kobe in the later part of his career. One of the top 5 ever? I don’t think so. Too early to tell.
Berdj Joseph Rassam says
Elgin Baylor’s career averages were 27, 14, and 4 – incredible!
J C says
Jerry West often comments that Baylor was fantastic and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
How about Kareem?
Talk about undervalued.
He had 6 rings, several MVPs and still holds the most total points record.
I think he gets swept aside cuz
1. He made it look so easy becuz of his height and the sky hook
2. He is so aloof and arrogant that he can’t even get a job in the league he dominated for so many years – so his personality works against him.
My favorite player of all time is Jerry West.
Grew up watching him.
And he became one of the best GMs in history too, after being one of its greatest players.
When he retired he was in the top five or so in scoring all time I think.
He is still the LOGO, after all 🙂
I first saw Baylor and West play in ’65 as a 13 year old kid. He was awesome and needless to say, I became a Laker fan from that day. It’s not surprising he’s overlooked by players or fans of today who are “ring obsessed” and/or simply “who’s number one?” Baylor is a true HOF player. The 1st “above the rim” player in the NBA. And at 6 ‘5 is still the Lakers top career rebounder, #1. And that’s not simply a matter of games played. Seven others have played more games for the Lakers than Baylor, including Kareem, Worthy, & Magic, yet Baylor, from the small forward position, remains the Laker’s top total rebounder, and #2, only behind Wilt in rebounds per game.
@ bleedpurplegold: pertaining to George Mikan, didn’t see him play, before my time. However one interesting note to why his career was so short. He got married, and needed to make more money for his wife and family. So he quit professional basketball and start to practice law. How times have changed.
Craig W. says
…and he was a 6’5″ small forward in a time when banging was expected and centers were dominant bodies down low.
Craig W. says
He and Jerry are the only two players on the same team who averaged 30+ ppg over the same season.
5D2 – not to mention that 90% of the conference he plays in has simply given up these past few years really only leaving the pacers in the way of the finals
Look at the old portland, san amtonio and sacremento teams we had to play to get to the finals – we had to play 50 win team each round he gets to play 2 rounds against under 500 teams – his path is a joke and is padding up his final apprearences – hes not on the top5 list and is agruebly on the top 10 list – others on the top 10 would be jordan, magic, bird, kareem, wilt, oscar, kobe, shaq – and then you can argue for guys like pippen and worthy since they have 3-4 rings on lebron
I put shaq there because he was crazy dominant
However, as long as there is ESPN I doubt we will take the time to consider these measures fully – this is entertainment, after all.
While there is some truth to this, ESPN has in fact actually brought much of the analysis that is out there into the mainstream–Hollinger, Pelton, Lowe, Haberstroh, and Goldsberry all worked or work for ESPN or Grantland. And, stat guys are always talking about contextualizing the ringzzzz factor in player analysis.
Kenny T says
Much like Sid above, I fell in love with Mr. Baylor’s game as a teenager in the mid 60’s. His tremendous talent and flair made him my favorite player and cemented the Lakers as my favorite team. Elgin had the misfortune of playing against the great Celtic teams of the 60’s and he and Jerry West just could never get over that hump. People forget that his later years were somewhat compromised by the devestating knee injury he suffered. although he return for a career threatening surgery and was once again an All Star caliber player, age and that knee injury took its toll. Thanks very much, Darius.
Bijan C. Bayne says
The first biography of Baylor is now available on Amazon. It is called “Elgin Baylor: The First Superstar”.