'E' As In Extraordinary
Rockets' legend and Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes reflects upon one-of-a-kind career
HOUSTON - One of the 50 greatest players in NBA history never picked up a basketball until the eighth grade.
He was awkward and clumsy. He had no clue about strategy or positions. And to top it all off, he didn’t have tennis shoes so he had to scrounge up a pair somewhere, which he eventually did – from the locker room trash can.
To say Elvin Hayes’ basketball beginnings were humble might be the understatement of the millennium – he didn’t even record his first made field goal until the final game of his sophomore year in high school.
All the more extraordinary, then, that the man who would go on to become known as “The Big E” would take the NBA by storm six years later, averaging more than 28 points and 17 rebounds per game during his rookie season with the San Diego Rockets, who selected Hayes No. 1 overall in the 1968 NBA draft on the heels of his similarly superlative college career at the University of Houston.
And though no one could have known it at the time, Hayes was also the man who started a legacy in Houston; serving as the first in what would become a legendary line of All-Star, Hall of Fame caliber big men to wear the Rockets jersey – a torch passed to Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming.
Truly, Hayes’ remarkable story is one for the basketball ages; a tale of tireless work and determination that helped transform a shy, quiet and introverted child from the small town of Rayville, Louisiana into one of the best big men the game has ever seen.
It is, then, with great pleasure that Rockets.com introduces this exclusive sit-down interview with Hayes, as the Hall of Famer discusses his one-of-a-kind hoops journey, favorite moments and some of the memorable matchups that helped define his career.
We hope you enjoy.