Elgin Baylor soared through the 1960s with a high-scoring, high-flying artistry that became the model for the modern basketball player.
The Lakers' 11-time All-Star and Hall of Famer died on Monday of natural causes at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, with wife Elaine and daughter Krystal by his side.
With a silky-smooth jumper and fluid athleticism, Baylor played a major role in revolutionising basketball from a ground-bound sport into an aerial show.
He spent parts of 14 seasons with the Lakers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, teaming with Jerry West throughout the 1960s in one of the most potent tandems in basketball history.
"Elgin was THE superstar of his era - his many accolades speak to that," Lakers owner and president Jeanie Buss said in a statement.
Baylor's post-playing career as coach of the New Orleans Jazz from 1976-79 and a 22-year tenure as a personnel executive for the Los Angeles Clippers was far less successful, but he remained a beloved basketball figure.
"Elgin Baylor set the course for the modern NBA as one of the league's first superstar players," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
The athletic brilliance of the 196cm Baylor had West once call him "one of the most spectacular shooters the world has ever seen".
Baylor had an uncanny ability to hang in mid-air indefinitely, inventing shots and improvising deception along his flight path.
Years before Julius Erving and Michael Jordan became international heroes with their similarly acrobatic games, Baylor created the blueprint for the modern superstar.
"Before there was Michael Jordan doing amazing things in the air, there was Elgin Baylor," former Lakers guard and former team president Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Baylor was the first NBA player to score 70 points in a game, and he still holds the single-game NBA Finals scoring record with 61 against Boston in 1962.
The No.1 draft pick in 1958 and rookie of the year in 1959, Baylor averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 846 games.
His scoring average is the third-highest in NBA history behind only Jordan (30.12) and Wilt Chamberlain (30.07).
"To me, he's probably the most underrated great basketball player of all time," NBA great Charles Barkley said on CBS.
Baylor is considered one of the greatest NBA players to never win a championship.