'Class act': Basketball world mourns death of 'one of the best ever'

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor is seen here waving to fans.
Elgin Baylor was regarded by many as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Pic: AAP

The basketball world is mourning the loss of legendary Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, following news that the Los Angeles Lakers great has died at the age of 86.

Baylor - regarded by many as the 'original Michael Jordan' - was a colossus in the 1960s with a high-scoring style of basketball that became the model for the modern NBA player.

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The Lakers announced on Monday that the 11-time NBA All-Star died of natural causes in Los Angeles with his wife, Elaine, and daughter Krystal by his side.

With silky-smooth movement and athleticism, Baylor played a major role in revolutionising basketball from a ground-bound sport into an aerial show.

He spent parts of 14 seasons with the Lakers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles during his Hall of Fame career, teaming with Jerry West throughout the '60s in one of the most potent tandems in basketball history.

West - who played more than 11 seasons with Baylor - said he's devastated by his friend's passing.

 “I’m very sad,” West said. “I guess I’m grateful to have shared some incredible times with him. He was just one of those unique individuals.

"I just learned so much from him about how to carry yourself as a player, a person. Most of all, the times we spent together after games. … Oh my God. The respect you gain for someone like him. He went out of his way to be helpful to me in terms of growing up, sharing things with me, which I know I will cherish the rest of my life, I know that. He was just a great human being."

Incredibly, Baylor never won an NBA championship, despite being one of the biggest stars of his era.

Pictured here, Los Angeles Lakers greats Magic Johnson and Elgin Baylor share a hug.
Lakers greats Magic Johnson and Elgin Baylor are seen embracing in this photo. Pic: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers lost in the NBA Finals to the legendary Boston Celtics six times during the 1960s, with Baylor retiring after playing in just nine games of the 1971-72 season.

In a cruel twist of fate, Los Angeles won the NBA championship that season, going on a 33-game win streak before toppling the New York Knicks in the Finals.

Baylor played in an era before significant television coverage of basketball, and little of his play was ever captured on film.

Basketball world remembers a legend of the sport

His spectacular style is best remembered by those who saw it in person - including West, who once called him "one of the most spectacular shooters the world has ever seen".

Tributes to Baylor have been pouring in on social media from across the basketball world, as the tragic news of his death left fans devastated.

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