Baylor left after his junior season when the Minneapolis Lakers made Baylor their first overall draft choice; they signed him in 1958. The Lakers, led by Hall of Famer George Mikan, had been the league's first dynasty, winning five championships in six years from 1949-1954, but had fallen on hard times, financially as well as in the standings. Its record in 1957-58 was 19-53. Season ticket sales spiked when Minneapolis signed Baylor for $20,000, a hefty sum at the time. "If he had turned me down, I'd have been out of business," owner Bob Short said. "The club would have been bankrupt."
Baylor made an impact immediately, earning the Rookie of the Year while leading the Lakers to the NBA Finals. Boston won the series in four straight games. Baylor averaged 24.9 points per game, fourth in the league and ranked third in rebounds (15). Minneapolis won 14 games more than the previous season. One year later, the team's last in Minnesota, he set an NBA record with a 64-point game, which he broke the next season with 71 against the New York Knicks. It stood as the league record until Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 in 1962.