This is reprinted from last year's Memorial Day. Enjoy.
Back in 1961 when the NBA ranked in cultural importance somewhere around where MLS stood 15 years ago, Elgin Baylor, one of young league's greatest stars, was forced to complete his military duty during the season. He was an Army Reservist stationed in the state of Washington, living in barracks, eating military food, and definitely not living the ballin'est lifestyle.
Baylor still played during the 1961-62 season, however, saving up his weekend passes to fly coach to wherever the Lakers were appearing. He didn't practice with the team during the season; he simply suited up and played when he could, which was in 48 of LA's 80 games.
What the original high flyer did in those 48 is absolutely ridiculous. Baylor averaged 38 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists per. What he accomplished in 60 percent of a season was so impressive, it earned him a fourth-place finish in the MVP award during the most stat-happy season ever: that's the year Wilt averaged 50 and Oscar earned his triple-double (only the Celtics played defense back then – probably why they won all the titles and Bill Russell won the MVP that year).
For comparison's sake, Chris Paul played in 55 percent of 2009-10's games, put up awesome numbers with virtually no help (19 points, 11 assists to only 2.5 turnovers, 2.1 steals, 49% FG, 41% 3FG, plus amazing defense) and he was not one of the 15 players to receive MVP votes.
What Baylor did was both statistically remarkable and conditionally super-human. Thank you to Elgin Baylor for your service and memories from that crazy season.
More importantly, thank you to all the troops who sacrifice so much personally for whatever greater good they serve, especially those who give their lives while doing so. Have a great Memorial Day everyone.