Elvin Hayes


From 1969 to 1980, Rayville native Elvin Hayes played in twelve straight National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star games. Hayes was master of the turnaround jump shot. Learn more »

Master of the turnaround jump shot, Elvin Ernest Hayes was one of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) top scorers and rebounders during a sixteen-year career. The first pick in the 1968 draft after collegiate stardom at the University of Houston, Hayes developed into one of the NBA’s top power forwards during a ten-year run with the Baltimore/Washington Bullets from 1972 to 1981. An All-Star selection in each of his first twelve seasons, Hayes retired in 1984 and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.

Hayes was born on November 17, 1945, in Rayville, Louisiana. He evolved from a shy, gangly youth into a star basketball player at segregated Eula D. Britton High School in Rayville. As a senior he averaged thirty-five points a game and led his team to a 1964 state championship in the postseason tournament for African American high schools that existed in Louisiana prior to court-ordered desegregation.

Following his five siblings to college, he and another future NBA star, Don Chaney, were the first African American basketball players for the University of Houston. The six-foot, nine-inch Hayes guided the Cougars to consecutive trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament Final Four, thanks in large part to his thirty-one-point scoring average and seventeen rebounds a game over his collegiate career.

While at Houston, Hayes and the Cougars contested three heated, classic battles with John Wooden’s legendary University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) teams, which were anchored by Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). In between the Bruins’s defeat of Houston in the Final Four two years in a row, the Cougars claimed victory in the first nationally televised regular season college basketball game. The teams met on January 20, 1968, in what was called “the Game of the Century,” and Hayes rose to the occasion, pouring in thirty-nine points and nabbing fifteen rebounds while holding Alcindor to just fifteen points. The Cougars won, 71-69, to snap the Bruins’ forty-seven-game winning streak. That performance helped Hayes earn The Sporting News College Basketball Player of the Year accolade.

Such credentials led the San Diego Rockets to select Hayes first overall in the 1968 NBA draft. He signed a $440,000 contract as a rookie and pledged a portion of his sudden windfall to his neglected high school back in Rayville for new recreation facilities. Hayes paid quick dividends for the California franchise, leading the league in scoring during his rookie year. He followed up by claiming the NBA rebounding title in 1969–1970, marking the first time in thirteen years that someone other than Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell accomplished the feat.

When the Rockets moved to Houston in 1971, Hayes returned to his old collegiate stomping grounds, but he was traded to the Baltimore Bullets a year later. The sudden change in scenery didn’t affect Hayes, who, while with the Bullets, teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Wes Unseld to guide the squad to three NBA Finals and the 1978 league championship. By then, Hayes—known as “the Big E”—had established himself as one of basketball’s premier scorers and rebounders.

Hayes was traded back to the Houston Rockets in 1981 and retired in 1984 after securing career averages of twenty-one points and 12.5 rebounds a game over his NBA career. He further strengthened his connection to the city by finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Houston, and he eventually became a radio analyst for the school’s basketball team.


Cite This Entry

Chicago Manual of Style

Whirty, Ryan. "Elvin Hayes." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published December 19, 2013. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1841/&view=summary.

MLA Style

Whirty, Ryan. "Elvin Hayes." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 19 Dec 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.

Suggested Reading

Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?

Heisler, Mark. Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time. Chicago: Triumph Books, 2003.


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