Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
32 of 51
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /

20. Elgin Baylor

  • Resume: 14 seasons, 10-time All-NBA selection, 11-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year Award, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, .431/—/.780 shooting splits 22.7 career PER, 104.2 win shares

And now we arrive at the most notable NBA legend to never win a championship. Eight times Baylor and the Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals…and eight times they were denied the trophy. The real kicker? Elgin could have played sparing minutes for another season and finally gotten his ring, but he retired to keep his dignity intact just before the Lakers finally broke through.

Baylor’s legacy goes beyond his accomplishments on the court, and it even goes beyond his status as one of the best forwards to ever play the game. We’re talking about a guy who served in the military in Washington in 1961-62, would fly back for Lakers games on the weekend to slap up a casual 38.3 points and 18.6 rebounds per game, and then would return to active duty. Talk about dedication to the game and your country!

Even more impressive, all this took place during a time of social unrest where Baylor wasn’t yet accepted by basketball fans because of the color of his skin. At 6’5″, Baylor was undersized for his position, but it didn’t stop him from pulling down rebounds like a madman until blowing out his knee in 1964. From then on he wasn’t the same player, but again, he led the Lakers to eight Finals appearances.

He walked away from a guaranteed title because he thought he was holding his team back, and because of that, he may always be remembered as the greatest NBA player to never win a championship. But things like his 71-point game and his all-around versatility made him so much more than what he’s remembered by.