Sorry Kareem, but it’s Elgin Baylor who should feel the most slighted about being ‘Statue-less’!

Elgin's perfect statue pose

No ‘slight’ to Kareem Abdul Jabbar or any other Laker greats who are without statue…but please write it down and burn it into your brain cells…ELGIN BAYLOR should’ve been the first to have a statue in front of Staples Center at L.A. Live and it’s not even a debate! As Chick Hearn had told me several times, if not for Elgin there likely would be no Lakers still here in Los Angeles at all (they could’ve either moved or folded in the early 60’s). Our fast food society wants everything right now, quickly, without respecting it’s past and how we got here and this is the perfect sad example!

Elgin started with the Lakers in Minneapolis and then put them on the map in L.A. and he’s the main man (along with Chick and Jerry West) who kept them here and allowed them to flourish through the tough times. If you doubt that, spend some time…look it up! Do your homework! And FORGET about Baylor’s days in the Clippers front office (which have nothing to do with what he is due by the Lakers organization). I won’t bore you with his impeccable stats as an All-World player and team leader who guided his center-less Lakers into title contention year after year. But I must stress to FORGET about the fact that he never won a championship in L.A., because in that era if you didn’t have a dominant center-you had NO CHANCE! Jim Krebs/Darrell Imhoff/Gene Wiley vs. Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain??? Are you paying attention here??? If you’ve forgotten Baylor in this equation, you’ve disrespected the franchise and the man who made the Lakers famous.

Still as great a 1-2 punch as the NBA's ever seen!

Unfortunately this oversite by the Lakers themselves has first embarrassed West (as he mentioned to me a few times and then in his statue ceremony) while somehow leaving Baylor out of the loop of the ultimate eternal respect. He was commonly known as the greatest player ‘pound for pound’ who EVER played the game (at least until Magic Johnson showed up) and if not for his knee injuries and the lesser medical knowledge at the time, he’d likely hold records that would’ve kept him Jordan-like in the public’s eyes forever. And unfortunately the lack of video kept from those days is another major factor why Elgin isn’t remembered enough for moves that even today’s greats would marvel at! Folks, he was a decade ahead of his time (at least) but few either remember or care and what a damned shame! Maybe someday soon they will respect the Lakers real all-time logo (while he’s still here to appreciate and enjoy what he earned!). Think of the Yankees without a Babe Ruth statue if that’s possible? Remember that they called Yankee Stadium ‘The house that Ruth built”. Well Staples is the second house that Elgin built (after surviving at the L.A. Sports Arena successful enough for Jack Kent Cooke to build the Forum)…and if you don’t appreciate that-you’re really not a true Lakers fan at all!

Elgin Baylor #22 from Seattle University, the first Lakers captain and the reason you have a team here! Did you get it yet? No statue for Elgin would be a sports sin in L.A. and then after him, give one to Kareem or whomever…and yes he deserves one too, but only AFTER Baylor! It’s already embarrassingly long overdue!

The following audio tells this story via those who know best (much more than I’ll ever know!). First, ex-Laker forward and Notre Dame all-American Tom Hawkins (and Baylor’s roomie) who’s always been candid and told me his deepest thoughts on Elgin, Kareem and how the Lakers organization has not handled these statue issues correctly…

Tommy Hawkins with Ted Sobel:

Unlike most others, Jerry West may be the most humble superstar who’s walked the earth and you’ll hear in his sincere words with me (recorded the day before his statue ceremony) just how uncomfortable he felt to receive such an honor and he also told me on and off mic how it just wasn’t right without his buddy Elgin to be part of the honor!…

Jerry West with Ted Sobel:

I’ve been the leading proponent in my passionate cause to get Elgin his respectful immortality due via a statue. I tried via emails and personal chats with Laker executive Jeanie Buss (who’s always been gracious with her time) to get her to fully understand why if Baylor isn’t honored this way, really no other should be either. I strongly recommended to her a 2-headed statue with Baylor and West linked together for eternity. I also briefly spoke with her father Jerry (the long-time team owner and Baylor admirer) before West’s statue ceremony on and off mic, and he was open but also non-commital on this subject…

Jerry Buss with Ted Sobel:

I was in Boston for all 3 NBA finals games last year and before game 5, I ran into longtime Celtic player/coach/broadcaster/and honk Tom Heinsohn (he totally bleeds green but greatly respects the Lakers past!), and during our brief chat, I asked him what it was like playing against Baylor? (as he did for so many years in their prime)…

Tom Heinsohn with Ted Sobel:

As Mr. Heinsohn put it best…Baylor’s accomplishments as a Laker have unfairly faded with time. And as long as I have time on this earth, I will carry the Elgin Baylor flag with dignity until he gets that statue (that shows him hanging in the air before Michael Jordan was a zygote!). 🙂

About Ted Sobel

Award winning sportscaster/journalist covering major events around the world since 1973. Please check out my new book 'Touching Greatness' and deep audio vault---and follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@tedsobelsports).
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