But he made no fuss. The papers did not even know. Some of his teammates called him selfish. As the team walked out of the locker room, one Laker spoke over his shoulder: "Nine of us go out to play; nine of us split the playoff money." Baylor heard, as he was supposed to. He made no reply, and he did not move.
Hot Rod Hundley, a teammate who was from Charleston, came back to implore Baylor. He went through the litany: We Need You; For The Team; Please; This Won't Accomplish Anything Anyway. Baylor listened, and only at the end did he speak. "Rod," he said, "I'm a human being. I'm not an animal put in a cage and let out for the show. They won't treat me like an animal."
For the first time Hundley, the white kid from Charleston, understood the great pride that lives in Elgin Baylor. "Baby," he said, "don't play."
The Lakers lost that night but made the playoffs, and Baylor even carried them to the finals before Boston beat them. "By the end of the year," Hundley says, "we couldn't shut Elg up." They split the playoff money 10 ways.
Baylor is from Washington, D.C., so he was hardly introduced to discrimination in Charleston, W. Va. In fact, he never even played basketball until he was about 14 because until that time the city playgrounds were not open to Negroes. He was the third son—his brothers are 6 feet 9 and 6 feet 6—of John and Uzziel Baylor. When he was told that he had a new son, John Baylor glanced at his watch to mark the time. Luckily for Elgin, it was not a Timex. Soon everybody called him "Rabbit" anyway.
As a senior at Spingarn High, an all-Negro school, Baylor was honored as the first of his race ever to make the All-Metropolitan team. (He still holds the District record of 68 points.) There were objections at the time that he was 19, a year overage. This has led to some extraordinary estimates of his age, but unless he attended Randall Junior High at the age of 20, he is now only 32.
"He never shot much unless we needed the points," his coach, Dave Brown, says. "And even back then he was never excitable. In one big game, they got four quick fouls on him. I moved him outside and he made 44 points."
Baylor was even less excitable in the classroom. Several colleges were prepared to abrogate their racial policies to accept him, but he could not qualify and finally chose a football scholarship at the tiny College of Idaho. Seattle spirited him out of Idaho the next year, and when his eligibility ran out Minneapolis Owner Bob Short signed him for $20,000. That same day Short refused an offer to sell the franchise, because the bidding fell short of the $250,000 that he was asking. Seven years and 17,000 Baylor points later, Short sold the Lakers for $5,175,000.
Since he came into the NBA, Baylor has been outscored only by Wilt Chamberlain, and Wilt leads everybody in history. Baylor has a career average of 29 points and 14.7 rebounds a game and, while he is naturally famous for his scoring feats, the rebounds seem to please him more. At 6 feet 5 he is the smallest man among 18 players in NBA history to average 10 or more rebounds a game.
Baylor has seen a number of changes take place in the league, in styles and attitudes, since he started playing. On the light side, he says, "There's too many country boys in their bully-woolly suits and Buster Browns in the NBA now. Their idea of a real good time is a James Bond movie and then 16 hours of sleep."