Legendary NBA player and College of Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, Elgin Baylor, has died at the age of 86.
The former Coyote and longtime member of the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, died of natural causes, surrounded by his wife, Elaine and his daughter, Krystal – announced by the Lakers organization.
“Elgin was the love of my life and my best friend,” Elaine said in the statement. “And like everyone else, I was in awe of his immense courage, dignity and the time he gave to all fans. At this time we ask that I and our family be allowed to mourn his passing in privacy.” In February, Elaine joined the College’s Board of Trustees for her first term.
Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all-time, Baylor was an 11-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection during his 14 seasons with the Lakers. He earned Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP honors during the 1958-59 season and averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds during his illustrious career. He also spent nearly three decades as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Baylor was recruited by Sam Vokes to play for the Coyotes in 1954 – teaming with R.C. Owens for one of the greatest basketball seasons in C of I history. Baylor averaged 32.4 points per game – scoring 40-or-more points six times, including a school-record 53 points vs. Whitman. The 1954-55 College of Idaho team became the first Northwest Conference squad to complete an unbeaten conference season (15-0), finishing the year 23-4 after losing at Montana State, 78-76, in the title game of the NAIA District 5 Tournament.
“He said when he left Washington D.C., he couldn’t eat at the restaurants there – his hometown, he could only go to certain restaurants (during segregation),” said longtime C of I athletic director and men’s basketball coach, Marty Holly. “And then he came to Idaho and could do what he wanted. He was very impressed with the people of Idaho and the people of Caldwell. It opened his eyes to a different part of the country, and what he saw, he liked.”
Following the season, Baylor transferred to Division I Seattle University, playing for two seasons, leading his team to the 1958 NCAA national title game, losing to Kentucky, 84-72, before being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1958 NBA Draft.
Baylor still holds the College's single-game records for points scored, field goals made and field-goal attempts as well as the single-season record for scoring average, field goals made and field goal attempts.
Baylor and his 1954-55 teammates were inducted into the C of I Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005, before being inducted himself in 2017.
“To me, having him say yes to being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and then getting to meet he and Elaine, was one of the highlights of my life,” Holly said. “Later, they invited someone from The College of Idaho to attend the dedication of his statue (outside Staples Center in Los Angeles) and every time he would see me there, he told me how much he enjoyed his time here and never forgot about that.”
The College of Idaho has a 130-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.