Eleven-time All-Star, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and Lakers legend Elgin has passed away due to natural causes, the team announced in a statement on Monday afternoon. Baylor, who was 86 years old at the time of his passing, and was surrounded by his wife and “everlasting love” Elaine, and his daughter Krystal.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” Elaine said in the 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, who the Minneapolis Lakers drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA Draft, spent the entirety of his career with the Lakers and was a part of the first-ever Los Angeles Lakers team.
During his career, Baylor averaged 27.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Baylor retired nine games into the 1971-72 season because he didn’t think he was good enough anymore, as explained by Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times.
One of the wildest things about Elgin Baylor's DRAMATICALLY UNDERRATED career is he never won a ring because he wasn't willing to not be great. He walked away during the Lakers' 71-72 championship season because he wasn't playing up to his own standards.— Benjamin Hoffman (@BenHoffmanNYT) March 22, 2021
Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 and his No. 22 jersey hangs in the rafters at Staples Center. Baylor is also one of six Lakers with a statue outside of Staples Center.
This season, the Lakers honored Baylor with jerseys inspired by his first few years with the team. Their throwback jerseys are also from the era that he played in.
Lakers governor Jeanie Buss released a statement on Baylor’s passing on Monday.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era - his many accolades speak to that,” Buss said. “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.”
Baylor never won a championship with the Lakers, but his sheer star power played an instrumental role in the team’s early financial success under extraordinary circumstances in Los Angeles and helped them grow into the global brand they are today.
"Baylor averaged 38.3 points per game during the 1961-62 season, even though he was playing only on weekends because he was simultaneously enlisted in the Army Reserve and could only fly out and play in games on a weekend pass"— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 22, 2021
His career was unbelievablehttps://t.co/I5E0QCBKXJ
His style of play is also reflected among today’s wings despite the fact that he was only 6’5.
elgin baylor laid the foundation for how the modern nba wing plays. he will be missed but his influence will live forever. rip pic.twitter.com/Mux6ZSIGyh— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) March 22, 2021
“Personally, I’d like to thank you because I’ve stole so many of your moves, it’s not even funny.” - Kobe Bryant to Elgin Baylor in 2018. Elgin truly was THAT great. RIP to a legend. (Via @RyanWardLA) pic.twitter.com/EYJxGS7rmc— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) March 22, 2021
league. Cookie and I are praying for his wife Elaine, kids, and the entire Baylor family. pic.twitter.com/cRuOdwkaxI— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) March 22, 2021
Off the floor, Baylor was an activist for racial equality, even during his playing days, under far more adverse circumstances.
Now feels like a good time to remind people that protest is a part of the DNA of the NBA. They've never just shut up and dribbled. In 1958, Elgin Baylor became the first player to boycott a game because of segregation. https://t.co/h9FBV6Ckou— Maya Rupert (@MayaRupert) August 26, 2020
Elgin Baylor once sat out a game because a hotel wouldn’t let him and his Black teammates stay there.— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) March 22, 2021
This is what was written about that decision at the time. (https://t.co/G592BhqFQE)
Baylor’s life on and off the court was marred by racism and he stared it down at every turn. pic.twitter.com/7yNSY5OmNk
After he retired, Baylor remained a supporter of athletes who used their platforms to speak out against injustice.
Elgin Baylor with @YogiRoth on athletes using their voices to shed light on the things they believe in.— Thuzio (@Thuzio) May 17, 2018
"The athletes control the show. They have the leverage to do all of this, so they should use their voice." #NBA #NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/YXLeOp6MjC
Funeral arrangements are pending, per the team. This story will be updated.