Elgin Baylor Rumors

Jerry West wasn’t surprised he could safely stand in the shadow of his teammate, Elgin Baylor, and endure what he called one of the scariest moments of his playing career, that threatened All-Star Game boycott in 1964. “The thing I took from it the most,” West said of the threatened All-Star Game, “Elgin, Bill Russell right there, Oscar. Being naive the way I grew up in West Virginia, the owner coming in, oh my god, and I’m thinking I will never play again. We walk out onto the court to play and I think, What did he just say? But for Elgin, in particular, the black athletes, they had to be crusaders in this league and in many cases were vilified for it. The people I most admire at this point in my life…. I wish I did have the courage then to be more forceful, but I may not have been the one to do it. But I damn sure wasn’t going to play that game. To think that day would change the landscape of a league that really was just starting to grow. Would it be a setback?
“That day has always resonated with me as one of the seminal points of this league. Like Elgin said, ‘We’re not playing.’ I remember him telling me, I think in Charleston, West Virginia, and they wouldn’t let him in the restaurant or hotel and he wouldn’t play. I really didn’t know that existed. That’s how stupid I was growing up in a small town. Here’s this dignified man, but he stood up for what he believed forcefully no matter the consequences. I’ll admit I probably had greater respect for my black teammates than my white teammates. The respect I had for Bill Russell was off the charts, the people who were jeopardized a lot in life and never afraid to speak out. That’s what the player movement, guys like Elgin, Oscar, Archie Clark, what they were all about. “I think one of the saddest days of my life is when we finally did win that championship in 1972 and no longer are we losers, but he’s not there,” West said about Baylor. “Nine games into the season he retired and we win 33 games in a row and I’m thinking how the hell did we do that without him, how did this happen? But the things I learned from him as a young player…I’m so grateful. “That day in Boston,” West added, “probably was the beginning of something that few could comprehend.”