When the NBA was young: Stories of Wilt, Elgin, West...

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SPQR
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Legendary sports writer Frank Deford wrote just a terrific article in last weeks Sports Illustrated. It tells tales: tales of what the NBA was like before our modern, glass smooth, comercial game where everything is high class and managed to a T evovled. When it was more like a traveling circus or vaudville act than the gleaming business enterprise we know today. Tales of the Lakers "stranded" in a hotel full of female models. From crazy league schedule making by one man in his kitchen, to the near death of the entire Lakers team due to plane failure, and....


lakeshowsd
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Terrific article. Thanks for posting that, Randy.

It's amazing how far the league has come since those initial days. Because the NBA is so popular now and appeals to such a huge fanbase of younger people who really don't know a lot about the league's history, I'd wager that most of these fans don't fully understand how relatively small time the NBA was when some of those All-Time great players were in their heyday. The article's author gives a very authentic recounting of that history.

It was interesting to read the author's commentary on Elgin Baylor, who he said was like the Michael Jordan of the 1960's era NBA. I believe that is probably accurate to a degree because Elgin was a dominant perimeter scorer like MJ. But if I were to make an even more accurate comparison, I'd say Elgin was like the Kobe Bryant of the 1960's era Lakers. Elgin's shooting percentages, career scoring average, and assist average much more closely resemble Bryant than Jordan. Obviously Baylor was a vastly superior rebounder compared to Jordan and/or Bryant, so it's probably most accurate to say that Baylor was like a crazy mix of Kobe and Charles Barkley. Scary thought!

It's a [email protected] shame that Wilt passed away before getting a chance to film that HBO special on his career. It would have allowed a completely new generation of NBA fans to gain some insight into the life and career of arguably the greatest and most dominant basketball player of all time. What a tremendously unfortunate lost opportunity for both Wilt, who was gone too soon, and for NBA fans in general.


SPQR
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Steve,

Yes, it is amazing to see how far the NBA has come, both in makeup and operation. Imagine a great player like Wilt being traded in some hallway? lol. Wow. Those were bare bones days for sure.

As to Elgin. I never saw him play. Way before my time. But from his stats and from contemporary accounts I have read, and from clips I have seen, he struck me as much more athletic Charles Barkley. Like giving Barkley some of the athletic Jordan or Kobe magic dust to fly and twist and turn, to go along with Barkelys rebounding prowess and physical strength. It is a true shame that Elgin, one of LA's and basketballs all time greats was so denied by Russ Celts. Seven freaking times! And that the year he retired because of injury, the Lakers finally went on to win the whole thing. What athletic injustice.

Perhaps some of the older fans here can chime in on their thoughts of Baylor. It would be so very interesting to read.

And yes, that HBO show of Wilt would have been something else. What a tremedous piece of cinema that would have been. I have no doubt I would have taped it to add to my collection and watched it over and over. What a loss for fans and posterity.


Katie
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Well i started watching NBA Lakers basketball in 1995 my first hero was Eddie Jones.He turned me into a sports fan.


lakeshowsd
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Katie wrote:
Well i started watching NBA Lakers basketball in 1995 my first hero was Eddie Jones.He turned me into a sports fan.

I was a huge Eddie Jones fan too. I remember being crushed when the Lakers traded him for Glen Rice. Absolutely crushed. LOL


SPQR
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Quote:

Well i started watching NBA Lakers basketball in 1995 my first hero was Eddie Jones.He turned me into a sports fan.

Katie,

I liked him too. I was at that time looking for the second Jordan for the Lakers, lol. That was pretty stupid on my part. Like another Jordan was going to come along, right? Eddie was good, and actually played decent D on MJ, but he wasn't even a half of Jordan.

Then my stupidity was rewarded with Kobe!! Still shake my head at that. Another Jordan (at least pretty damn close) did come along, to my Lakers!! Unbelievable.


XiaoFeiDao
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In those early Kobe years with Eddie, when they play, sometimes hard to tell which is Kobe or Eddie. Their frames, speed were similar. Smile


maraud
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The only thing I did not like about Eddie Jones was that he disappeared in the post season.


maraud
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Randy, I read your entire post which I usually skim through. This is a tremendous article and would have liked to have read the entire article but the computer gods will not allow me to bring the article up. I am one of the guys that he talks about who for years now makes excuses for Wilt not winning over the Celtics year after year and I will keep on saying it until my dying day. It was great to hear him talk about the double headers, many of which I had sat through. In Phily it was the Spars that played the Harlem Globetrotters and Meadowlark Lemon and Marcus Haynes were my favorates. I have seen Joe Faulks play for most of his career and he was followed by a Villinova player named Paul Arizon an asmatic who had even a better set shot than Faulks. The playground that he played before college had electrical wires in front of the basket so he had to arch the ball to get over the wires to make a shot. No one was tall enough to block his set shot because of that. The combination of West and Bayler was unbelievable. Baylor was older and he would have made Barkley cry if Barclay was in his era. His game is hard to describe. He was kinda like the big O who was also difficult to describe. Both had giant hands for their size, as fast as players today and I have no dpoubt that both could compete today. The writer's comparison to MJ was more correct than comparing him to Kobe as Kobe's hand size was small compared to Jordan. Try to explain today to a 15 year old what Magic was like in todays market, that is why it is difficult to explain Elgin or....


maraud
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Randy,

I finall was able to read the origihal and now know that you printed the entire article word for word.


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