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Ask Athlon: Los Angeles Lakers

Q: I’d like to see some perspective on the first great L.A. Laker, Elgin Baylor.  Jerry West, his great teammate, suggested that a statue of Elgin should be in prominence there at Staples Center.  I agree.  What do you think?

— William H. Johnson, Los Angeles, Calif.

A: I agree — Baylor is probably underappreciated for his greatness. He predated Michael Jordan and Dr. J but was very nearly their equal in high-flying, attack-the-rim basketball. Baylor helped his team into the finals eight times, and he was first-team All-NBA 10 times. In 1961-62 he averaged 38.3 points a game. In the 1962 NBA Finals against the Celtics, Baylor dominated Game 5 with 61 points. The next year he finished second in scoring (34.0), fifth in rebounding (14.3), sixth in assists (4.8) and third in free throw percentage (.837). No championship, though (he retired a few games into the Lakers’ championship 1971-72 season), and that’s the only deficiency that harms his legacy and has probably prevented a statue in his honor in title-mad Los Angeles. (His weak performance as General Manager of the sad-sack Clippers didn’t exactly enhance his legacy either.)

Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

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