The Lakers have witnessed some of the best small forwards in the history of basketball. Every team needs a small forward to win championships.
The Lakers have one of the best sets of players. So, it is hard to choose the best small forward. After considering a few factors, we have chosen Elgin Baylor as the Lakers’ best small forward.
Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor was born on September 16, 1934, in Washington, D.C. He was passionate about playing basketball ever since middle school despite his limited access. He was a three-time All-City player at Southwest Boys Club and Brown Jr. High.
He did not do well academically and had to drop out in 1952. Then he started working for a furniture store and continued playing local recreational leagues.
Baylor possessed exceptional skills that were considered enough to lift any franchise. From the start of his career, he won awards and left his fans in awe. In his first season with the Lakers, he won Rookie of the Year.
Rookie of the Year (1958–59)
Baylor joined the Lakers and signed to play for $20,000 per year. Even as a rookie, he showed exemplary performance. He scored third in rebounding (15.0 rebounds per game) and eighth assists (4.1 assists per game).
Baylor’s performance earned him the “NBA Rookie of the Year Award.” He also led the Lakers from last place to the NBA finals.
In the seasons from 60-61 and 62-63, Baylor averaged 34.8, 38.3, and 34.0 points per game, respectively. He also scored a new NBA record by scoring 71 points against New York Knicks.
Due to certain limitations, he only played 48 games during the 1961-1962 season and still managed to score over 1800 points. In a game against the Boston Celtics, Baylor grabbed 22 rebounds and set the still-standing NBA record.
During the 1963–64 season, he was set back due to knee problems. He had to undergo knee surgery during 1965, which made him unable to return to his previous form.
Baylor somehow managed to play only two games in 1970-71. Later, he ruptured his Achilles tendon that ultimately made him retire. To honor his sportsmanship, the Lakers awarded Baylor with a 1972 championship ring.
Notable Awards and Achievements
Baylor had a total of 23,149 points, 3,650 assists, and 11,463 rebounds over 846 games. His NBA records are yet to be broken. Baylor averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.3 rebounds per game in his 14-year long career.
Throughout his career, he has been awarded several times. Baylor was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was also named the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. SLAM magazine also ranked him 11 out of the top 50 NBA players of all time. Baylor’s groundbreaking achievements have left fans stunned.
Baylor has lived a long life of success and prosperity. He died on March 22, 2021, at the age of 86.
During his childhood, most basketball courts were restricted to African Americans. Despite such restrictions and racial discrimination, Baylor still managed to build a successful basketball player career. He has been chosen as the best small forward by us due to his remarkable performance.