Lakers Moments: Elgin Baylor is a star


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Up, up and away: Elgin Baylor (22) takes a jump shot against the New York Knicks during a game at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 22, 1967.


Baylor was a human highlight reel who became the first star basketball player to compete in Los Angeles. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward displayed a combination of size and grace like no other player before him.

Known for his signature running bank shot, Baylor’s knack for midair acrobatics made him one of the most difficult players to defend against. He utilized his speed and maneuverability to become the first dominant small forward in league history. Baylor finished with 23,149 points, 3,650 assists and 11,463 rebounds when he retired in 1971.

Baylor was selected first overall by the Lakers in the 1958 NBA draft. The team signed him to a $20,000 contract, a hefty sum in those days for a player who hadn’t proved himself at the professional level. However, it was a move that then-Lakers owner Bob Short claimed saved the franchise.

‘If he had turned me down then, I would have been out of business,’ Short said in a 1971 interview with The Times. ‘The club would have gone bankrupt.’

Read more about Elgin Baylor and his 14 years with Los Angeles in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

-- Sarah Ardalani and Austin Knoblauch