Los Angeles Lakers legend and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor died in Los Angeles at the age of 86.
Baylor died of natural causes on Monday surrounded by his wife, Elaine, and his daughter, Krystal, the Lakers said in a statement.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” said Baylor’s wife, Elaine said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
Selected first overall by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, Baylor averaged 24.9 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a rookie, receiving Rookie of the Year honors.
Baylor played 14 seasons for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, earning NBA All-Star honors 11 times with 10 First Team All-NBA appearances.
“Elgin was THE superstar of his era -- his many accolades speak to that,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said in a prepared 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. 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.”
Born on Sept. 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C., Baylor played one season at the College of Idaho before transferring to Seattle University, where he led the team to their first NCAA championship game.
After retiring from basketball in 1971, Baylor went on to serve as a coach for the New Orleans Jazz and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers held a moment of silence before tip-off of the team’s 119-110 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night for Baylor. He served as general manager of the Clippers for 22 seasons and was named NBA Executive of the Year for the 2015-16 season.
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, Baylor’s No. 22 jersey was retired by the Lakers on Nov. 3, 1983, and a statue honoring Baylor was unveiled on April 6, 2018, at STAPLES Center.
Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood called Baylor an underappreciated superstar.
“Before Julius Erving, before Michael Jordan, there was Elgin Baylor,” Haywood told The Undefeated. “He never got the respect he was due for what he brought to the game. The best small forward to ever play.”
Elgin is survived by his wife Elaine, a daughter (Krystal), a son and daughter (Alan and Alison) from a previous marriage, and a sister (Gladys Baylor Barrett).