Elgin Baylor invented hang time

Growing up in Los Angeles I remember the Lakers, Dodgers and Rams very well. There players were bigger than life but in the early years a few players always stood above the rest. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale from the Dodgers, Ramon Gabriel and the fearsome foursome from the Rams and Elgin Baylor and Jerry West from the Lakers. Baylor died last Monday of natural causes at the age of 86.

When he died that bridge that connected Los Angeles to the old Laker team in Minneapolis, Minnesota fell into the Mississippi River. Baylor was that lone connection that brought these two cities together because of Laker basketball.

Many sports fans and the NBA did not give Baylor the respect he deserved but Baylor knew who he was. He knew he invented hang time. He knew he was one of the best basketball players in the history of the world and that's all that really matters.

When Baylor would get the ball on the baseline, he would duck head a few times, and then he would go baseline on you and take flight and hang in the air until it was clear for him to go to the basket. He did so many times you took it for granted and forgot about it until Michael Jordan started doing it. Then you remembered, Baylor use to do that.

As a player his record speaks for itself. As a man his record speaks for itself. Former Laker, player, coach and broadcaster Pat Riley said it best. "Besides being one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, Elgin Baylor was one of the classiest, most dignified men of integrity I have ever met."

Unfortunately, Baylor worked for the worse owner in the history of professional sports, Donald T. Sterling, the former owner of the Clippers. The racist Sterling kept Baylor from being one best executives in NBA history. Baylor never wavered while under immense pressure he had to endure working for the Clippers. That is why I call him the Jackie Robinson of the NBA.

Like Jackie Robinson and Rafer Johnson he will continue to stand as tall as his statue outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


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