A statue of Lakers legend Elgin Baylor was unveiled in Star Plaza outside Staples Center Friday evening, honoring the player considered most responsible for beginning their long-running success and popularity in Los Angeles.
“I appreciate all the wonderful things people have said about me, but without the wonderful teammates this certainly would not have been possible,” Baylor said at the ceremony preceding the Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “After about six decades of being around the NBA, I stand here before you today humbled, thankful, grateful for this recognition.”
Baylor went on to thank God “for the gift that brought me here today.”
Baylor was joined in speaking at the ceremony by the four Laker legends with statues in Star Plaza — his teammate of 12 seasons, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.
The 12-foot-3-inch, 800-pound statue was created by Omri Amrany and Gary Tillery. Amrany was a creator of the Star Plaza statues of Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O’Neal and West, the team’s late broadcaster Chick Hearn, Los Angeles Kings legend Luc Robitaille and their retired broadcaster Bob Miller.
A high-flying 6-foot-5-inch forward, Baylor’s 27.4 points per game average is third-highest in NBA history behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Baylor was among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History selected in 1996 in conjunction with the league’s 50th anniversary.
Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 and was a 10-time first-team All-NBA selection.
After leading Seattle University to the 1958 NCAA championship game, the then-Minneapolis Lakers made Baylor the first choice in that year’s draft. He was the NBA’s rookie of the year, fourth in the league in scoring, third in rebounding and eighth in assists, leading the Lakers to the NBA Finals, a season after they had the league’s worst record.
The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960, with Baylor and West leading them to the finals seven times in their first 10 seasons in the city, all losses.
Baylor retired after playing nine games in the 1971-72 season, the day before the Lakers began their 33-game winning streak, the longest of any team in North America’s four major professional leagues. The team won its first NBA championship in Los Angeles that season.
When Baylor retired, Mal Florence wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “No man has contributed more to the success and popularity of the Lakers since they moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960 than Baylor.”