Groz: A look at what made the late Elgin Baylor Seattle basketball royalty

Mar 22, 2021, 4:59 PM
Elgin Baylor Seattle U...
Elgin Baylor was dominant in two seasons leading Seattle U. (Getty Images/Bettmann)
(Getty Images/Bettmann)

Seattle University and the NBA lost one of the best to ever play the game of basketball when Elgin Baylor passed away Monday at the age of 86.

There was nothing Baylor couldn’t do on a basketball court. After coming to Seattle U and having to sit out a year, Baylor turned the then-Chieftains into an instant championship contender in 1956-57, his first season. He averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds per game (at 6 foot 5) and led Seattle U to the No. 5 ranking in the country and a berth in the NIT, where they lost to St. Bonaventure.

The following season with Elgin averaging 33 points and 20 rebounds, Seattle U won 23 games and made it to the national semifinals, losing to Kentucky. Baylor then went pro and was the No. 1 overall pick by the Lakers – the Minneapolis Lakers, who had gone 19-53 that year.

Baylor won Rookie of the Year accolades in 1958-59, averaging 26 points and 14 boards, and in 1962 he set the record for the most points scored in a single NBA Finals game. He dropped 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds while playing all 48 minutes.

Baylor went on to work for the Clippers as their longtime general manager and was actually NBA Executive of the Year in 2006, but he never forgot his roots. When Seattle U went back to Division I in basketball 10 years ago, they approached Baylor about putting his name on the court and holding a tournament called The Elgin Baylor Classic. Not only did he do that, but he came to the inaugural and made it a point to make it out almost every year to the delight of the now-Redhawks.

The first Elgin Baylor Classic was a win over Fresno State with Baylor in attendance. I always remember that two days later Seattle U would once again have basketball royalty in the house – they just didn’t know it yet. Seattle defeated Weber State and their up-and-coming guard Damian Lillard. Elgin followed by Dame – it was a great start in Division I for Seattle U.

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Groz: A look at what made the late Elgin Baylor Seattle basketball royalty