Among other things, the late Kobe Bryant was a passionate student of the game of basketball. And by student, we mean the way Mike Tyson is a student of boxing.
Tyson can talk about great fighters of the past like he has a Ph.D. in boxing and Bryant was very much that way about basketball.
And one of the players he most respected, one of the guys he really researched, was Elgin Baylor.
Like Bryant, Baylor was a Laker for his entire NBA career. He had the fortune of having Jerry West as a teammate and the misfortune of competing with Bill Russell’s Celtics from 1958 to 1969 and Russell was not letting anyone else win a title if he could possibly help it.
But Baylor was spectacular. Bryant called him Dr. J and Michael Jordan before those transcendent stars came along and if you watch these highlights, you’ll see why.
He was a 6-5 forward who could pretty much do anything he desired. And he also paved the way for Connie Hawkins and, in the twilight of his career, Dr. J, aka Julius Erving.
Ironically, after running into Russell and falling short so often in the 1960’s, the Lakers got on an epic roll in 1972, winning 33 straight and dominating the NBA in a way that was unprecedented. Sadly for Baylor, he had retired earlier in the season after an Achilles injury. The Lakers started that 33 game winning streak -that still stands, incidentally - immediately after he retired.