Baylor, Elgin Gay

Baylor, Elgin Gay, 1934-2021, American basketball player, b. Washington, D.C. After playing basketball in high school, Baylor played for the College of Idaho (one year) and Seattle Univ. (two years), where he was named an All-American. The Seattle team made the 1958 N.C.A.A. finals, but lost to Kentucky. After turning down an initial offer to turn pro by the Minneapolis Lakers (later located in Los Angeles) in 1956, he accepted their offer two years later, earning the title of Rookie of the Year in 1959. He played a total of 14 seasons with the team, setting several records for most points scored in a single game early in his career. Along with teammates Jerry West and, eventually, Wilt Chamberlain, Baylor played in eight N.B.A. finals, although the team never won the title. He was named 11 times to the N.B.A.’s all-star teams, and 10 times to the all-N.B.A. team, and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. His career average was 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Following his retirement due to knee problems in 1972, he served as head coach for the New Orleans Jazz in 1979 and then general manager for the Los Angeles Clippers from 1986-2008. Neither team fared well under his guidance, although Baylor claimed he was dismissed by the Clippers due to racism and not to his lack of performance; he lost a subsequent lawsuit against the team, although the team’s owner was later banned by the N.B.A. for making racist remarks. Baylor was noted for his unusual athletic agility, including an ability to seemingly float midair as he jumped to score baskets, setting the stage for the showmanship of later stars.

See biography by B. C. Bayne (2015).

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