When he played, he was the most dynamic player in the game. Think of it this way: In the litany of basketball's aerial artists, before there was Kobe Bryant there was Michael Jordan. Before there was Jordan, there was Julius Erving. And before there was Erving, there was Elgin Baylor.
A 6-foot-5 forward with strength and agility, Baylor played 14 seasons for the Lakers in a career that began in 1958-59 when the franchise still was in Minneapolis. He was one of the first players to take the game off the floor, up to the rim and beyond, and was renowned for his ability to change direction in midair.
Baylor was at his best on April 14, 1962, when he scored 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in a 126-121 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Though the Celtics came back to win the next two games and the championship, Baylor's scoring feat remains a Finals record.
Baylor's performance was masterful. He stunned the capacity crowd at Boston Garden with an amazing array of moves against one of the best defenders in the league, Tom "Satch" Sanders. If he got past Sanders, Baylor had the legendary Bill Russell to contend with. "All I remember is that we won the game," said Baylor years later. "I never thought about how many points I had."
Said Sanders: "Elgin was just a machine in that game."