Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball
Bijan C. Bayne
NBA Hall of Fame player Elgin Baylor was an innovator in his sport, a civil rights trailblazer, and a true superstar. He influenced future NBA All Stars such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and is considered by many to be one of the most important players in NBA history. A prolific scorer who baffled opponents with his twists and turns and inventive moves, Baylor was a force both on and off the court for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers.
In Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball, Bijan C. Bayne tells the story of how a kid from the streets of segregated Washington, DC, who didn’t attend college until he was over twenty, revolutionized basketball and stood up for his rights. In a time when few nationally prominent black athletes spoke out about racial inequality in the United States, Baylor refused to tolerate discrimination. On the court, with his balletic moves and urban style of play, Elgin Baylor lifted the game of basketball off the floor and into the air.
Elgin Baylor: The Man Who Changed Basketball includes personal reflections from Baylor’s old schoolyard companions, former teammates, players he coached in the NBA, and noted sports journalists, bringing to life his childhood, college career, and professional life with intimate detail. Basketball fans, historians, and those interested in the impact of sports on the Civil Rights Movement will all find this first-ever biography of Elgin Baylor both fascinating and inspirational.
agreed Vokes. The College of Idaho played in the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Conference. Coach Vokes had what it took to run a respectable sports program at a remote school with less than 500 students. Since his basketball team generated only $2.40 in gate receipts for one game his first year, he convinced school officials to admit athletes who fell well short of admissions standards at other schools. It worked for Idaho, and other coaches would follow Vokes’s model. The Idaho Coyotes’
highly publicized giant favored to walk away with those honors in 1960, and it reunited Baylor with the best man from his wedding. Proceeds from the game, called “Cagers for Kids,” went to the Salesian Boys Club in East L.A. Tickets went on sale throughout L.A., ranging in price from $1.75 to $4. On that rainy Monday, 10,202 fans showed up to see Elgin’s Lakers and Wilt’s Warriors. A preliminary exhibition was played by former Negro League baseball star Ziggy Marcelle’s Vagabonds, a showy
stationed at Fort Lewis, I was with my father and uncle. I was going on and on about Elgin averaging 38 points and all that, and my uncle said to my dad, “Don’t you think it would be better for him to emulate someone he has a chance of being like?” My father said, “I’d be thrilled if he grew up to be the gentleman Baylor is.” In a 1962 installment of the Los Angeles Sentinel, “Doc” Young writes of Baylor in L.A., “Seldom in this town’s history has the vast superiority of an athlete been so
basket. For whatever reason, L.A. responded with a 13–2 run. With 1:13 left, they took the lead. Prior to the contest, Hundley had predicted to Sports Illustrated, “You just watch, I’ll betcha $5 Heinsohn gets a technical foul called on him tonight just like he did last night. He’s so crazy, he always does against us.” With 30 seconds to play, Heinsohn drew a tech for swearing at a referee. On that final note, L.A. won, 134–128. According to the article “Basketball at Its Toughest,” Hundley said
in the quadriceps muscles—a condition more common among football players. “By using a peripheral vasculator on Baylor, we hope to work him out of this condition without surgery,” Kerlan told the Times in 1964. The procedure, which involved air pressure massage, was already working for Baylor’s friend and homeboy, Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills. “Going in, cutting, would do more harm than scraping out the calcium would do good,” Kerlan told Baylor, according to the 1992 Times story. “Baylor missed