Elgin Baylor, the legendary Los Angeles Lakers forward and NBA Hall of Famer, who paved the way for generations of the team’s greatest players died of natural causes the Lakers announced Monday (March 22). He was 86.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” Elaine Baylor, Elgin’s wife, said in a statement, according to CBS Sports. “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 played all 14 seasons with the Lakers and was drafted No. 1 overall by the team in 1958. That season, he won Rookie of the Year and went on to become an 11-time All-Star and 10-time First Team All-NBA selection.
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“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,” she continued. “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 was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. A statue in his honor stands outside of the Staples Center.
Aside from his accolades on the court, Baylor coached the New Orleans Jazz for three seasons after retiring as a player. He then served as general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers from 1986 to 2009. He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2005-06 after the Clippers won 47 games and made the Western Conference semifinals.