Dear Elgin Baylor,
I heard about your lawsuit against your last employer -- whom you accuse of racism.
I was a child who watched in awe and admiration when you starred with my hometown basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers. You finished your first pro year with the then-Minneapolis Lakers fourth in the league in scoring, third in rebounding and eighth in assists, also scoring 55 points in a single game -- then the third-highest in the history of the league. You played in the All-Star game that season, sharing the Most Valuable Player award. You easily took the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
Averaging 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in your 14-year pro career, you helped lead the Lakers to the NBA finals eight times and played in 11 NBA All-Star games -- all while carrying yourself, on and off the court, with class and dignity. At one time, you had the record for the most points scored in a game, 71. And you also held the record for most points in a playoff game, 61. (See YouTube: "NBA 1962 Finals Game 5 -- Elgin Baylor 61 Points.")
Years after your pro career, in 1986, you became general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers, under the ownership of the parsimonious Donald Sterling. Your team floundered under your 22-year tenure, as your owner refused or was unwilling to spend the money to attract and keep the kind of talent that wins championships. The Sports Illustrated cover of April 27, 2000, proclaimed the Clippers "The Worst Franchise in Sports History" and declared that "the Man Responsible" was the owner -- and your employer -- Donald Sterling.
Yet you showed up every year, and every preseason you predicted good things this time, this season, for the Clippers. Then, as if on cue, the team crashed and burned. The following year, you would repeat this ritual of hope and success for the upcoming season -- almost always followed by failure.
Sterling officially replaced you as GM last October. You filed suit, calling him a racist.