Elgin Baylor, a legendary NBA star for the Los Angeles Lakers and a longtime general manager for the Los Angeles Clippers, has died, the Lakers announced Monday. He was 86.
The team said Baylor passed away peacefully of natural causes surrounded by his wife Elaine and his daughter Krystal in Los Angeles.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” his wife Elaine said in a statement. “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.”
Baylor was the first overall pick of the 1958 draft and won Rookie of the Year in 1959, going on to be named to 11 NBA All-Star teams and being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 as one of the game’s all-time great players. Baylor was known for his acrobatic style and hanging jump shots that would transform the game, and he led his teams to eight different NBA Finals. In his rookie season alone he averaged 24.9 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Baylor was born in Washington, D.C., and played a season for the College of Idaho before transferring to Seattle University and leading the team to its first NCAA championship game. He was drafted by the then Minneapolis Lakers and would play 14 seasons with the team both in Minneapolis and LA.
After retiring from basketball in 1971, Baylor went on to serve as a coach for the New Orleans Jazz and vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers for 22 years. His Clippers legacy was clouded by an unsuccessful lawsuit he brought against the team and former owner Donald Sterling for wrongful termination, years before Sterling was ousted from the league for racist language.
Baylor’s No. 22 jersey was retired by the Lakers on Nov. 3, 1983, and a statue honoring Baylor was unveiled on Apr. 6, 2018, at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
“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. 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.”
Elgin Baylor is survived by his wife Elaine, a daughter (Krystal), a son and daughter (Alan and Alison) from a previous marriage, and a sister (Gladys Baylor Barrett). Funeral arrangements are pending.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 22, 2021