Hall of Fame
CLASS OF 2023
Elvin Hayes’ basketball career started with a bang at the University of Houston, where he was a two-time first-team All-American and was selected as Player of The Year in college basketball in 1968. He also led the Houston Cougars to two Final Fours in 1967 and 1968. Above all his on-court accomplishments, though, Elvin and Don Chaney were the basketball players to break the color barrier at the University of Houston and the Southwest Conference. Hayes described this time as “a tough situation at the time because the current players had not been around black players. It was a difficult time our freshman year … but we adjusted really well and so did our team.” All of this led to Hayes getting his jersey number retired by the school.
Elvin Hayes tribute video during Black History Month in 2022
Following his illustrious college career Hayes was of course the first overall selection in the 1968 NBA Draft, selected by the San Diego Rockets. With Hayes being one of the most talented power forwards to ever play the game, few players have ever dominated the NBA as quickly as he did, leading the NBA in scoring his first year and leading the league in rebounding his second year.
Watch Elvin Hayes's interview with Kevin Eschenfelderon, the "Red Carpet" at the 2023 Houston Sports Awards.
The Rockets moved to Houston for the 1971 season, allowing Hayes to play in the same city where he was a force at the University of Houston. But after spending his first four years with the Rockets, Hayes was traded to the Baltimore/Washington Bullets. Even with the change of scenery, Hayes continued to flourish in the league. At 6’9”, 235 pounds, he was given the nickname “the Big E”, he was a dominant rebounder, elite defender, and offensively he demonstrated a vast number of moves. His teammates and competitors marveled at his game, such as long-time teammate Don Chaney who described Hayes as being an “unbelievable shooter with his back to the basket, he had the greatest turnaround jumper you’ve ever seen.”
Elvin Hayes on the "Red Carpet" at the 2023 Houston Sports Awards.
That automatic turnaround jumper ended up being Elvin’s trademark, long time competitor Robert Parish described what it was like guarding Elvin Hayes, saying, “No one shot the turnaround jump shot quite like the Big E. His turnaround jump-shot was like Kareem’s hook shot, you knew exactly what they were gonna do, but there wasn’t much you could do about it.”
Watch the musical tribute to Elvin Hayes at the 2023 Houston Sports Awards
Along with his undeniable skills as a basketball player, Elvin was extremely durable. He missed only nine games during his sixteen-year career and is third all-time in NBA minutes played. Hayes was also an incredible player when the playoffs came around, as he was able to elevate his game another notch, leading the Bullets to three NBA finals appearances during his time on the team. Elvin was driven by critics and his own desire to win a ring, and when that finally happened in 1978, he expressed his gratitude, saying, “Finally winning the championship completes the picture, because no one can ever again say the E’s not a champion.”
Watch the Elvin Hayes induction speech at the 2023 Houston Sports Awards
Elvin Hayes was traded back to the Rockets in 1981, allowing him to finish his playing career where his legend started, and in a city where he is still adored and admired. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990 and is a member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams.
The Harris County - Houston Sports Authority, with the help of several Houston Rockets staff members surprised Elvin Hayes at the Toyota Center announcing his induction to the Houston Sports Hall of Fame
Elvin Hayes and his wife, Erna unveil his plaque on the Houston Sports Walk of Fame while HCHSA Chairman of the board Kenny Friedman and HCHSA Board member Dr. Laura Murillo look on.
Fellow Houston Cougar basketball start and Harris County - Houston Sports Authority board member Lyndon Rose poses with Elvin Hayes on the Walk of Fame.