If Baylor. I don’t blame them for not knowing,

If you asked modern NBA fans who the first “Human Highlight Reel” superstar athlete was in the history of the sport, they would probably say Julius Erving, “Dr. J”. He was definitely one of the first, but many people don’t know he admitted that he patterned his game after the legendary small forward for the Lakers, Elgin Baylor. I don’t blame them for not knowing, Elgin played in a time where the NBA wasn’t accepted by the mainstream, and televising games wasn’t commonplace. A Youtube channel that compiles old Laker footage estimates that only 2% of Elgin’s career field goals were captured on film. When you do actually watch old film of him, he’s such a step ahead of all those white guys it’s like a smaller Lebron playing against a bunch of Brian Scalbrines.The bruising small forward stood at 6’5, 225 pounds and was drafted No. 1 overall out of the University of Seattle by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958. He immediately made an impact by winning Rookie of the Year while averaging a superb 24.9 points, 15 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. His rebounding numbers were insane for a guy his size, and his scoring got as high as 38 ppg before injuring his knee. He could hit mid-range shots but he preferred to take it to the hoop with an athletic move. His play was so captivating he took the Minneapolis Lakers from last place and near-bankruptcy to packed houses and the NBA finals his rookie year. He averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists for his career, and scored 71 points in one game. Elgin and Bill Russell were two of the first players to introduce playing above the rim, but it was Elgin who introduced the concept of hang-time. He would drive to the rim on a mission to destroy defenders with his athleticism. He would ready his shot and leap into the air, and when he and the defender were on their way down he would shoot a rainbow over them with his backward-slanted body mid-air. We used to see this all the time from Kobe when he was inside trying to flip a shot up. Elgin was so deadly because not only could he dominate with his scoring, but he had an otherworldly sense of passing. You can watch old footage of him and see him do no look passes to teammates directly behind him all the time. He was such a good passer that teams were afraid to double team him. At the same time, he was a phenomenal 1-on-1 player. Team defenses had to pick their poison. He was referred to as “Mr. Inside” because of his deadliness around the rim, while his legendary teammate Jerry West was “Mr. Outside” for his shooting. He was such an amazing talent it’s a shame there isn’t more footage of him. He played at a time when the NBA wasn’t anywhere near as popular as other sports. He said that in his day he would have to fly coach when he would travel to games. No one flew on private jets. Elgin recalls that one of those coach flights crashed into a god damn cornfield, and everyone survived! Can you imagine the hysteria if that happened today?Another reason he may not be remembered is that he never won a ring. In fact, he went to the NBA Finals 8 times…and lost every single time to the Boston Celtics. He holds the record for most finals appearances without winning a ring. It was unfortunate he was so good in the era of Bill Russell’s Celtics dynasty. It’s similar to how great players such as Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller couldn’t win a ring themselves because they couldn’t get past Michael. Elgin had phenomenal teammates such as Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Hot Rod Hundley, and Wilt Chamberlain. He played his ass off in the championships, once scoring 61 points against the Celtics in Game 5 of the 1962 Finals – still the most points scored in a finals game. Jerry West was right by his side as they mounted loss after loss to the Celtics, but fate was about to play a cruel trick on Elgin while bestowing Jerry and the Lakers with a blessing.In the 1971-72 season, Elgin played 9 games and then chose to retire due to his nagging knee injury. The very game after he retired…the Lakers went on their historic 33 game winning streak that still stands to this day. Not only that, but they defeated the Knicks in the finals to capture that elusive ring that Elgin gave his all for. The team led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain decided to honor Elgin by giving him a ring, but the NBA technically doesn’t recognize him as an official champion.The Lakers are finally giving Elgin his due. It was announced a few days ago that they’re erecting a statue in front of Staples Center to honor the pioneering forward. His contemporaries and other retired NBA greats all believe he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as legends such as Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Oscar Robertson. If Elgin never came along, the playstyle of the NBA superstar and the Lakers-Celtics rivalry wouldn’t exist as we know it.