Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor has passed away at the age of 86.
According to ESPN, the former ball player died on Monday (March 22) of natural causes. He took his last breath among loved ones, specifically his wife, Elaine, and his daughter, Krystal.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” Elaine said in a statement released by the Los Angeles Lakers. “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 started making basketball history as a college player for the Seattle Chieftains. In 1956, the Lakers picked him in the 14th round draft, but he opted to continue playing on campus. Two years later, after leading his team to its only appearance in the NCAA Final Four tournament, he was drafted as the Lakers’ number one pick.
Baylor played with the team from 1958 to 1971 — a total of 14 basketball seasons. He was an 11-time All Star and 10-time All NBA selection in addition to the Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP for the year 1958-59. The legend helped lead his team to the NBA Finals eight times but never took home the championship. By the end of his basketball career, he averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era — his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers owner 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,” Buss 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 stopped playing basketball in 1971 because of issues with his knee and resurfaced nearly five years later as the coach to the New Orleans Jazz. After three years, he got a general manager position for the Los Angeles Clippers and was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2005-06. He worked with the team until 2009.
The news of Baylor’s death was met with heartfelt tributes from members of the NBA.
Magic Johnson called Baylor a “class act and great man” in his touching message. Chris Paul tweeted, “Our game lost a pillar today. Rest in Power to the great Elgin Baylor.”