Elvin Hayes won a championship in the NBA and many awards but he is also famous for one of the most spectacular college basketball games of all time.
It was UCLA who never lost games, and had Lew Alcindor at center, against the University of Houston and The Big E, Elvin Hayes. The giant Astrodome was the venue for this game with 52,693 fans in attendance.
Lew Alcindor, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he would be known a few years later, had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Hayes went for 39 points and 15 rebounds, he also hit the winning free throws as Houston won 71 to 69.
With college averages of 31 points and 17 rebounds it wasn’t a surprise when the 6-9 Hayes was drafted with the top selection of the 1968 NBA draft.
Hayes was chosen by the San Diego Rockets ahead of Wes Unseld, Bob Kauffman, Tom Boerwinkle and Don Smith. Hayes immediately delivered for the Rockets with 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds. He was on the NBA All-Rookie team and had also set a record for the most minutes played by someone in their rookie season, with 3,695 minutes.
He would play four seasons with the Rockets, three in San Diego and one in Houston after the team moved. He never missed a game during this time. With post moves, turnaround shots and other offensive plays he was able to average around 27 points per game.
The Rockets decided they needed to make changes and sent him to Baltimore, a team that would be known as the Washington Bullets in a couple of years, in a trade for Jack Marin and future considerations. The trade wasn’t good for Houston but for Hayes and the Bullets it meant a future NBA title.
With the Bullets, Hayes was added to someone similar in height and position, Wes Unseld. Unseld took care of the defense while Hayes took on the scoring load. They were one of the best combinations at center and power forward in the NBA during the 1970s.
For the 1978 season, Hayes had 21.8 points and 13.3 rebounds in the playoffs as the Washington Bullets won it all. In 21 playoff games that year he also blocked 52 shots and had 32 steals so he made a big impact at both ends of the floor.
The Washington Bullets couldn’t repeat in 1979 but they got close, losing in the finals. Hayes set a record during that series with 11 offensive rebounds in one finals game. Hayes would play two more seasons with the Washington Bullets before it was back to Houston.
To get him on the team again cost Houston a 1981 second round draft pick and a 1983 second round draft pick. The Rockets now had a veteran to play next to Moses Malone as well as someone to be the backup at center when Malone was out of the game. Hayes retired in 1984, after playing 50,000 minutes in the NBA regular season games.
Elvin Hayes is in the Basketball Hall Of Fame, in 1974 he was on the NBA All-Defensive second team and he was on the All-NBA first or second team on six occasions.