Bill Plaschke, the Los Angeles Times columnist, wrote this about Elgin Baylor today: "Elgin Baylor was a Lakers star before the Lakers were stars."
Before that eve, Baylor was a star for two seasons -- including his rookie year -- with the Minneapolis Lakers before their move west. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 25 points per game as a rookie and 30 points per game in his second season. As a rookie, he was named both rookie of the year in the NBA and MVp of the league's All-Star Game.
He played for the Los Angeles Lakers through 1972 and was later general manager of the L.A. Clippers after several seasons of coaching the New Orleans Jazz. He was the first player taken in the 1958 NBA draft after playing for Seattle University, where he was named Most Outstanding Player in the 1958 NCAA Final Four. His pro career averages were 27 points and 14 rebounds per game.
OK, that's your history lesson.
Now, you can own some of Baylor's history.
Plaschke writes that, beginning at 8 a.m. Twin Cities time, you can bid on items from Baylor's basketball career -- dating back to the awards he won in high school and including his 1971-72 NBA championship ring, for which the bidding starts at $40,000.
Baylor, now 78 years old, told Plaschke that he isn't having financial problems, and that he wants fans to have access to the 358 items that have been put up for auction: "I'm constantly getting calls from people interested in my stuff, and I finally thought, it's time. I've had some of these things for 60 years. It's time to share some of them with the fans who have been so wonderful to me."
The 166-page auction catalog is posted on the web, and online bidding will be available.
History buffs and old-time Minnesota basketball fans should take note of items from Baylor's time playing in Minneapolis, including a pair of uniform shorts he wore during his rookie season -- white (and too short for contemporary use) with blue stars and Baylor's No. 14 -- and his Rookie of the Year trophy.
Also up for auction are telegrams Baylor received after refusing to play in a 1959 game when he and two other African-American teammates were not allowed to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the team. The telegrams from, Minneapolis business and church leaders, including the businessman and newspaper publisher Cecil E. Newman, congratulate Baylor for taking that stand. Newman was editor of the Minneapolis Spokesman and St. Paul Recorder and was president of the Minneapolis Urban League starting in the late 1940s.
For those who are interested in a more contemporary Minnesota connection, there's a game-used jersey and practice shoes wore and autographed by Sam Cassell from his time with the Clippers, where the former Wolves guard was traded (for Marko Jaric) after his two seasons in Minnesota.
For more about the auction, go here.
To read Plaschke's column, go here.