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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Elgin Baylor Auction Contains Unique Memorabilia, Including All-Time Team Certificate

I get a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever an athlete auctions off his personal memorabilia, trophies, rings and awards; I felt particularly uncomfortable when my all-time favorite player, Julius Erving, sold a huge collection that included his three championship rings. Erving denied that he was experiencing financial problems and I hope that it is true that he was not forced by circumstance to part with those items. I understand the Zen way of thinking that attachment--to people, to property, even to certain thoughts--only leads to suffering but I know that if I had won an NBA championship ring I would never, ever sell it.

Elgin Baylor is selling 358 items from his personal collection. He denies that he is having financial problems, telling the L.A. Times, "I'm constantly getting calls from people interested in my stuff, and I finally thought, it's time. I've had some of these things for 60 years. It's time to share some of them with the fans who have been so wonderful to me."

Lot #53 caught my eye:


Baylor received this certificate in 1964 at the NBA All-Star Game. On March 5, 1963, the sports editors of the 100 largest daily U.S. newspapers announced the results of their balloting for an "All-Time NBA Team." I knew about the three official All-Time teams selected by the NBA for the league's 25th, 35th and 50th anniversaries but I had never heard of this particular All-Time team.

It is interesting that Bob Cousy finished first with 69% of the vote, ahead of his teammate Bill Russell. Cousy never won a championship ring without Russell and in 1963 he was completing the last full season of his career (he made a brief comeback as a player coach in 1969-70), while Russell was on the verge of leading the Boston Celtics to their sixth title in his seven season career. Little more than a decade earlier, George Mikan had been voted as the greatest player of the first half of the 20th century by the Associated Press but he finished third in the 1963 voting. Baylor edged out Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place, while Oscar Robertson, Bob Pettit, Dolph Schayes, Paul Arizin and Jim Pollard rounded out the top 10. The most notable missing name is Jerry West, who entered the league the same season as Robertson (1960-61); most experts considered West and Robertson to be interchangeable in the All-Time backcourt from at least the late 1960s until the emergence of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan in the 1980s but in 1963 West had not yet established himself as a member of the All-Time elite.

Several years ago, I selected an All-Time team of retired players; my top 10 list included four of the players selected in 1963 (Russell, Baylor, Chamberlain, Robertson) plus West and five players who started their careers well after 1963: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. The recently retired Shaquille O'Neal and the still active Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tim Duncan will no doubt be mentioned when future All-Time teams are selected.

The Pantheon:

The Pantheon: An Examination of Basketball Greatness, Part I
The Pantheon: An Examination of Basketball Greatness, Part II
The Pantheon: An Examination of Basketball Greatness, Part III
The Pantheon: An Examination of Basketball Greatness, Part IV
The Pantheon: An Examination of Basketball Greatness, Part V

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:09 PM

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