Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor (1934-2021)

Elgin Baylor (Silver Screen and Roll)
Elgin Baylor (Silver Screen and Roll)

Ball handling wizard Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor was born Elgin Gay Baylor on September 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C. to John Wesley Baylor from Caroline County, Virginia, and Uzziel Lewis Baylor from Spotsylvania County, Virginia. His brothers were John L. Baylor and Kermit Baylor, and his sisters, Gladys Baylor Garrett and Columbia Baylor Reese.

Baylor attended segregated public schools in the District of Columbia including the all-male Phelps Vocational High School, where he averaged 18.5 points per game during his junior year on the basketball team in 1951. Becoming disenchanted with school, he withdrew after his junior year to work odd jobs but continued to play basketball recreationally. However, he returned to his studies after graduating from Spingarn High School in Southeast Washington D.C. in 1954 at the age of 20.

In 1954 Baylor was presented the SSA’s Livingston Trophy for scoring the most points in the City Invitational Tournament (CIT). He was also named first-team and the first African American player on the all-white Washington All-Metropolitan team. Afterward, the 6 ft 5 and 225 pounds attended the College of Idaho, a private institution in Caldwell, Idaho with a college scholarship. Upon his arrival, he was also invited to the college’s basketball team without having to try out. He averaged more than 31 points and 20 rebounds per game, outperforming every other team player during the season.

During his senior year in 1958, Baylor, now at Seattle University (SU), a private Jesuit university in Seattle, Washington, averaged 32.5 points per game and led the institution to the NCAA Championship game where they lost to the University of Kentucky. Baylor was drafted by the NBA Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers) to play for $20,000 per year. In 1959, Baylor won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. On June 22, 1958, Baylor and Ruby Saunders were married. They parented a daughter Alison and a son Alan.

Elgin Baylor (NBA.com)
Elgin Baylor (NBA.com)

During his 14-year career with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, Baylor averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds. In playoff games, he averaged 27.0 points and 12.9 rebounds.

From 1960 to 1961 through 1962 to 1963, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3, and 34.0 points, respectively. In addition, he led the Lakers in points and rebounds to the NBA Finals eight times, was a 10-time All-NBA First Team selection, and played in 11 NBA All-Star Games.

In 1972, Baylor was awarded a championship ring from the Lakers, and five years later, in 1977, he was inducted into the All-America team’s Basketball Hall of Fame. And on September 17, 1977, Baylor married Elaine Cunningham from New Orleans, Louisiana. They had one daughter Krystal.

In 1986, Baylor was named Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Buffalo Clippers (Later the Los Angeles Clippers), in Buffalo, New York. He was with the Clippers in Buffalo and Los Angeles for 22 seasons. During the 2005-2006 season, the Clippers finished with a 47-35 record and appeared in the playoffs for the first time since 1976. In 2006, Baylor won the NBA Executive of the Year Award.

While Elgin Baylor never won a title, he is regarded as one of the greatest and top-20 players of all time by basketball historians.

Elgin Gay Baylor died on March 22, 2021 in Los Angeles, of natural causes. He was 86.

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