Alonzo Mourning

Born: February 8, 1970
Position: Center
Professional Career:
Charlotte Hornets (NBA): 1992-’95
Miami Heat (NBA): 1995-’02; 2005-’07
New Jersey Nets (NBA): 2003-’04

Alonzo Mourning (danielbrenda.blogspot.com)
Alonzo Mourning (danielbrenda.blogspot.com)

Few defenders come as fearsome and intimidating as Alonzo Mourning. It didn’t matter his age, his team, or his condition, if he was on the court, he was bound to swat your shot, patrol the paint, and protect the rim. Unfortunately, staying on the court proved to be the most difficult task of Mourning’s NBA career.

409 of 492
From 1993 to 1998, Alonzo was a fresh and brash presence in the NBA. And although he’d have a bit of trouble in the latter part of this period staying on the court, he wound up playing 409 of a possible 492 games (83.1%). Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, Mourning teamed with Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues for one of the NBA’s most exciting and endearing teams of the 1990s. The stylish haircuts, teal uniforms, and emphatic blocks, dunks, and passes by the three respective men entranced fans.

The Teal Madness got off to a rollicking start in Mourning’s rookie year. The Hornets won a franchise-best 44 games that season and reached the playoffs for the first time. Mourning was instrumental in leading the #5 seed Hornets over the #4  seed Boston Celtics. The Hornets center averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks a game. In Game 4, he scored 33 points and nailed the game-winning, series-clinching shot.

The Hornets were summarily defeated by the New York Knicks in five, hotly-contested games in the second round. Indeed, no team won by more than six points in any game. With such a hot start, it seemed the Hornets were a team destined to challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy for the rest of the 1990s. Unfortunately, Mourning and Johnson weren’t entirely on the same page. After Johnson received a huge contract extension. Mourning wanted one of his own. The Hornets balked at his asking price of $13 million annually, then offered him $11 million annually, to which Mourning balked, and so Zo was traded to Miami shortly before the 1995-96 season.

Under the tutelage and guidance of Pat Riley, Mourning blossomed, amazingly, into an even more terrifying defender. With Tim Hardaway helping carry the offensive load and men like P.J. Brown a partner in defensive crime, Zo’s Heat ascended the Eastern Conference.

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The Heat reeled off an impressive 61 wins in the 1996-97 season. Normally, that’d be good enough for a #1 seed, but the Chicago Bulls had dropped 69 wins on the league. Meeting in the Conference Finals, the Bulls easily dismissed the Heat in five games. Despite that clash, Miami’s main rival in this era would turn out to be the New York Knicks. From 1997 to 2000, the clubs met every postseason in some of the most bruising and physical playoff series ever played. Mourning got into a fight with his former teammate Johnson, who was now a Knick. New York coach Jeff Van Gundy famously held onto Zo’s ankles like a rag doll trying to futilely break up hostilities. Each series went to a do-or-die game, which the Knicks won all but once.

The general failure to upend the Knicks doesn’t detract from this period as the peak of Alonzo’s prowess. In 1999 and 2000 he missed only seven games, led the NBA in blocks per game both seasons, was named Defensive Player of the Year both seasons, and in 1999 finished second in MVP voting.

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From that apex, Mourning quickly descended. Kidney disease struck in 2000 knocking him out for all but 13 games in the 2000-01 season. A brief return to form came in 2002, but the disease worsened and he missed all of the 2002-03 season. Mourning signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Nets in the summer of 2003. A successful kidney transplant saved his life, but only allowed him to play about two dozen games with New Jersey. The Nets traded Zo to Toronto in December 2004 as part of a deal to land Vince Carter. The dismayed Mourning never reported to Toronto and eventually was bought out of his contract. That opened up a return to Miami in March 2005, where Mourning would spend the rest of his career. A tear of his patella tendon in December 2007 – exactly four years after his life-saving transplant – finally struck down the mighty Zo and forced his retirement.

Zo Flex

By that point Mourning wasn’t quite the offensive force he could once be. From 1993 to 2000, he had averaged 21 points on 52.5% shooting. However, Zo found a measure of redemption in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Mourning only scored eight points in 20 minutes of action a night. His defense, however, never quite dissipated. In that limited action, he turned up the defensive heat and averaged a remarkable 2.5 blocks.

His presence was indispensable to the 2006 Miami Heat. With the lumbering Shaquille O’Neal often in foul trouble and generally incompetent on defense, Mourning was the paint-patrolling safety valve to prevent opponents from overrunning the Heat. The title Miami won that season was well-deserved and earned for Mourning. In Game 6, which Miami won to earn the NBA title, Alonzo put together eight points, six rebounds, and five blocks in just 14 minutes. In his limited playing time that game, the Heat had a +11 scoring edge over the Dallas Mavericks, while Shaq’s 30 minutes of play produced a -7 scoring margin for Miami. Seeings how the final score was 95 to 92 in favor of Miami, it’s a darn good thing Mourning was there to intimidate, block, and swat.

Honors

NBA –
2x Defensive Player of the Year (1999, 2000)
2x All-Defensive 1st Team (1999, 2000)
All-NBA 1st Team (1999)
All-NBA 2nd Team (2000)
7x All-Star (1994-’97, 2000-’02)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (838 games):
17.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 0.5 SPG
.583 TS%, .527 FG%, .692 FT%
21.2 PER, .166 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (95 games):
13.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 0.5 SPG
.570 TS%, .512 FG%, .649 FT%
19.2 PER, .139 WS/48

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1977-78 Season

Artis Gilmore Bulls late 70s

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

For the second-straight season, Bobby Jones of the Denver Nuggets secures a forward spot on this here squad. He nearly replicated his 1977 production with 14.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG, and a .578 FG%. That FG% was more than good enough to lead the NBA. If there was fantasy basketball back in the ’70s he’d be a Top 10 pick every year. In the real world of hoops, the Nuggets benefited from his defensive acumen to the tune of 48 regular season wins and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets didn’t seem to realize the good thing they had going though with Jones, David Thompson, and Dan Issel as their core. They traded away Jones that summer to the Philadelphia 76ers for George McGinnis. Jones would spend the rest of his career in Philly as a Sixth Man extraordinaire, while the Nuggets would be done with McGinnis after little more than a season.

As a rookie, Marques Johnson is the new kid on the block for this team, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the numbers: 19.5 PPG and 10.6 RPG. Like Bobby Jones, Marques could slide back and forth between small and power forward. This created the classic dilemma for defenses: if guarded by a small forward Marques would take them to the block, whereas a power forward would be left in the dust by Johnson’s speed off the dribble or cuts. Add to that his buttery jumper and ability to crash the offensive glass (3.7 offensive boards a game this season) and Marques was a handful for opponents. For the Milwaukee Bucks he was a blessing leading the team to the Western Conference Semi-Finals where they barely lost in seven games to Jones’s Nuggets.

The man in the middle this year is the domineering Artis Gilmore of the Chicago Bulls. Averaging 23 points and 13 rebounds, Gilmore was the hoped-for savior of the Bulls. The team did manage 40 wins this year – after winning 44 the previous season with Artis – but the roster was bare bones beyond Gilmore and forward Mickey Johnson. Artis’s defensive presence – swatting 2.2 shots a night – along with his ambidextrous hook shots were enough to make the Bulls average, but more was needed to make them good again.

At guard we have familiar faces in Calvin Murphy (3rd Team in ’74) and Randy Smith (3rd Team in ’75). Murphy was still playing guard for the Rockets. However, the Rockets now had John Lucas to play point, so Murphy was given the ball and asked to score buckets and not worry so much about the passing. At 5’9″ in height he averaged 25.6 PPG and 3.4 APG this year. All while shooting 49% from the field and 92% from the charity stripe. Houston was a team in transition, though, so Murphy’s career-high scoring only led to 29 team wins. This is the year Rudy T was lost to the Punch, Mike Newlin griped about his reduced role on the team, and Moses Malone was getting acclimated to the NBA.

Just as chaotic was the scene in Buffalo. Randy Smith averaged a career-high 24.6 PPG for a team that was clearly about to abandon it’s western New York home. The mess of a club stumbled to 27 wins after ditching Bob McAdoo the previous year and also bringing in the basketball corpse of Marvin Barnes this year. Through it all, Smith was as reliable as ever playing every single game this season. In fact, he played every game of every season for 10-straight years. The NBA’s Iron Man dazzled at the 1978 All-Star Game (27 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) winning MVP honors. That gave Buffalo one last sip of NBA glory before the Braves were whisked away to San Diego that summer to become the Clippers.

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT% WS PER
F Marques Johnson Milwaukee Bucks 80 19.5 10.6 2.4  1.3  1.2 0.522 0.736 10.6 21.3
 F Bobby Jones Denver Nuggets 75 14.5 8.5 3.4  1.7  1.8 0.578 0.751 8.9 19.8
C Artis Gilmore Chicago Bulls 82 22.9 13.1 3.2  2.2  0.5 0.559 0.704 11.5 23.5
G Randy Smith Buffalo Braves 82 24.6 3.8 5.6  0.1  2.1 0.465 0.800 7.9 19.1
 G Calvin Murphy Houston Rockets 76 25.6 2.2 3.4  0.1  1.5 0.491 0.918 7.4 19.5

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1976-77 Season

Billy Knight

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

HAPPY MERGER EVERYONE!

With the shotgun marriage of the ABA and NBA, the All-NBA 3rd Team features THREE players who the previous season were plying their trade in the ABA. This means that of the 15 players who made the All-NBA Teams this year, SEVEN of them were in the ABA the previous year. So much for the NBA being totally superior. In any event let’s see who makes the 3rd Team this year…

At forward we have Bobby Jones and Larry Kenon, both alums of the ABA. Jones made a pretty convincing case he was the NBA’s best defender in 1977. He achieved the rare accomplishment of 2 BPG and 2 SPG in the same season. He also snagged 8.3 RPG this year. Not content to destroy the league just on defense, Jones also finished third in the NBA in FG% with a clip of .570. The Nuggets forward was a sight to behold in ’77.

So was the effervescent Larry Kenon of the San Antonio Spurs. The slender power forward drove his way to 22 points and 11 rebounds per game while also swiping two steals a night. Although George Gervin was receiving the popular acclaim Kenon led the Spurs in minutes, rebounding and steals this year while his PPG average was just one point behind Gervin’s. Kenon was a big a reason San Antonio’s late ’70s success as the Ice Man. Just needed bettering marketing, I guess.

Manning the middle is NBA stalwart Bob Lanier. With his long-time teammate Dave Bing gone, Lanier clearly stood as Detroit’s centerpiece and smashed the league for a silly statline of 25.3 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.0 BPG, .534 FG%, and .818 FT%. Despite Lanier’s greatness, Detroit fielded a roster of good-but-not-great players beside him and went 44-38 this season. Their playoff appearance in 1977 would be the last until 1984, by which time Lanier was long gone. A shame Lanier’s prodigious talents didn’t lead to more team success.

In the backcourt, we have another venerable NBA great in Earl Monroe. The long-time Knicks shooting guard was still enjoying his late career renaissance averaging a cool 20 PPG and 5 APG this season for New York. 1977 marks his final appearance on the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams after scoring selections in 1968, 1970, and 1975. Unfortunately, as Monroe’s career wound down, so did the success of the Knicks. They malaised their way to a 40-42 record their third straight mediocre season.

Completing the squad we have Billy Knight of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers had ruled the roost in the ABA with three titles in that league. Knight in 1976, the last year of the ABA, averaged 28 points and 10 rebounds as Indiana’s hopeful savior to return the club to the top of the pro basketball mountain. In his first NBA season, Knight was resplendent averaging 26.6 PPG and 7.5 RPG while shooting a .493 FG%, which was just a smidge off his 1976 ABA FG% of .494. Knight’s scoring prowess couldn’t resurrect the Pacers. He was traded following this season to the Buffalo Braves and the Pacers spent a decade struggling to simply survive as a franchise.

Position Player Team G PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bobby Jones Denver Nuggets 82 15.1 8.3 3.2  2.0  2.3 0.570 0.717 11.0 21.1
F Larry Kenon San Antonio Spurs 78 21.9 11.3 2.9  0.8  2.1 0.492 0.823 9.5 19.8
C Bob Lanier Detroit Pistons 64 25.3 11.6 3.3  2.0  1.1 0.534 0.818 10.3 23.0
G Billy Knight Indiana Pacers 78 26.6 7.5 3.3  0.2  1.5 0.493 0.816 10.7 20.1
G Earl Monroe New York Knicks 77 19.9 2.9 4.8  0.3  1.2 0.517 0.839 7.8 18.1

Bill Russell in Finals-Clinching Games

Rings! Russell

Bill Russell, as we all know, is the Lord of the Rings in the NBA. The great Boston Celtics teams he captained in the 1950s and 1960s won 11 NBA championships in a 13-year span. These were superb teams with great players stacked from the bench to the starting five. Yet, it still seems to me that Russell’s personal brilliance gets misinterpreted or overlooked. I’m still searching for the right word to describe it. Maybe it’s just forgetfulness and ignorance that comes with the passage of time.

In any event, Russell was a destructive force when it came time to close out a Finals series. Here are Russell’s spectacular performances in such situations.

NOTE: the blocks are estimated totals provided by nbastats.net.
ALSO NOTE: This does not include Game 6 of the 1958 NBA Finals where the Celtics lost. Russell missed two games with an ankle injury and played the deciding Game 6 on the bum ankle managing just 20 minutes in the loss.

Bill Russell in Deciding Finals Game

Seems kinda good. No wonder he has all those rings.

The Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams: 1975-76 Season

Left: Paul Westphal (#44) trying to block Jo Jo White; Center: John Drew (#22) and Bob Dandridge #(10); Right: Bob McAdoo shooting over defenders
Left: Paul Westphal (#44) trying to block Jo Jo White; Center: John Drew (#22) and Bob Dandridge #(10); Right: Bob McAdoo shooting over defenders

Ed. Note: Prior to the 1988-89 season, the NBA only had All-NBA 1st and All-NBA 2nd Teams. To fill in that historical award gap, the crack Pro Hoops History committee of one has gone back and created the Lost All-NBA 3rd Teams.

The 1975-76 season would be the last in which the pro basketball world in the United States would be divided into rival camps. The NBA and ABA would merge in the offseason thus making the All-NBA 3rd Team selections that much harder. Hooray, I suppose. So here we have the final All-NBA 3rd Team – or what the All-NBA 3rd Team should have been – of the old NBA.

A new era had already begun in Milwaukee. The Bucks had traded their franchise center(piece), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to the Los Angeles Lakers for a Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters, Elmore Smith, and Dave Myers. Despite the loss of Kareem, the addition of several pretty good players in his place allowed the Bucks to turn in the exact same record in 1976 as they did in 1975: 38 wins and 44 losses. The biggest reason for the Bucks’ ability to stay competitive even after losing Kareem was Bob Dandridge. The small forward who had been the 3rd Wheel behind Kareem and Oscar Robertson earlier in his career was now the Man in his seventh NBA season. He rose to the challenge with best season yet: 21.5 PPG (career-high), 7.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 50% FG, and 82.5% FT. The Bucks surprising season came to an end early in the playoffs against Detroit. Dandridge averaged 22  PPG in the three-game series that saw every game decided by three points.

Turning south, we find another team on the rebound in 1976: the Atlanta Hawks. Their core of Pete Maravich (traded), Walt Bellamy (retired), and Lou Hudson (over 30, soon-to-be-traded) was pretty much finished and they put their hopes into young forward John Drew to return them to glory. Drew had been sensational his rookie year (1975) with 18.5 points and 11 rebounds per game. Now in his sophomore campaign, Drew upped the ante with 21.6 PPG while escalating his FG% from .428 in ’75 to .502 in ’76. The remarkable shooting improvement gave him a PER of 25.2, good enough for second in the entire NBA that season. Drew also placed second in the league in WS/48. The offensive rebounding machine played a mere 30 minutes a game, which might be why Atlanta staggered to 30 wins this year. Drew was a wise investment, but the Hawks would need more to return to the playoffs.

For the third season in a row, Bob McAdoo led the NBA in PPG and thus easily secures a spot on this squad. The 1975 MVP of the league again averaged over 30 points, again grabbed over 12 rebounds, and again blocked over 2 shots a game this season. For good measure McAdoo also dished a career-high 4.0 assists per game. McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves finished with 46 wins this season and for the third-straight season found themselves dislodged from the postseason by the Eastern Conference’s eventual champion after a hard-fought series. Appearing to have reached a stalemate, the Braves would unfortunately trade McAdoo the following season and they embarked on a four-decade sojourn (as the Braves and Clippers) to return to the heights McAdoo took them too.

At the guard slots we have a pair of former teammates: Jo Jo White and Paul Westphal. The two shared the backcourt in Boston, but Westphal was traded to the Phoenix Suns after making too many demands for a new, wealthier contract from the Celtics. Not sure exactly how much money Westphal demanded, but he sure seemed worth it. The backup guard in Boston turned into a starting sensation with the Suns: 20.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 2.6 SPG in 1976. And this would be his worst season through 1980. Jo Jo White on the other hand was about to hit the downside of his career. About to hit it. He was still in fine form this season averaging 18.9 PPG and 5.4 APG in his seventh season with the Celtics.

In fitting fashion, it would be Westphal’s Suns and White’s Celtics that met in the NBA Finals this season. The tight series could have swung either way, but the 3OT Game 5 won by Boston ultimately gave the Celtics the series edge. White scored 33 points that game on his way to being named Finals MVP.

Pos. Player Team G PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT% WS PER
F Bob Dandridge Milwaukee Bucks 73 21.5 7.4 2.8  0.6  1.5 0.502 0.824 9.0 19.1
F John Drew Atlanta Hawks 77 21.6 8.6 1.9  0.4  1.8 0.502 0.744 10.6 25.3
C Bob McAdoo Buffalo Braves 78 31.1 12.4 4.0  2.1  1.2 0.487 0.762 12.3 23.3
G Jo Jo White Boston Celtics 82 18.9 3.8 5.4  0.2  1.6 0.449 0.838 7.4 14.6
G Paul Westphal Phoenix Suns 82 20.5 3.2 5.4  0.5  2.6 0.494 0.830 10.0 19.9

Gus Williams

Born: October 10, 1953
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Professional Career:
Golden State Warriors (NBA): 1975-’77
Seattle SuperSonics (NBA): 1977-’84
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1984-’86
Atlanta Hawks (NBA): 1987

Gus Williams
Gus Williams

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, few, if any, guards could match the greatness of Gus Williams.

From 1978 to 1985, Gus averaged 20 points, 6 assists and 2.3 steals a game. At 6’2″, Williams was able to play either guard position. He was at his best busting out on the break and creating sublime scoring opportunities on the run. As time wore on and his team’s needs changed, Gus became more and more of a play-maker topping off with 8.5 APG in 1984.

Williams’ heyday was certainly with the Seattle SuperSonics, but his illustrious career began in Golden State.

Drafted by the Warriors in 1975, Williams was a sturdy backup in his first two years (1976 and 1977). That Warriors squad should have been a perennial contender in the late 1970s. Rick Barry was moving just a touch past his prime but with Williams, Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith, Clifford Ray and Robert Parish, that team initially had more than enough talent to contend. Indeed, The Warriors won the NBA title the year before Gus showed up (1975) and they reeled off an NBA best 59 wins in his rookie season (1976).

Ultimately, the Warriors fell apart in the 1976 postseason, losing the Western Conference Finals to 42-win Phoenix, and never recovered. Overlooked as a prized asset, the Warriors let Gus leave and sign with the Sonics after the 1976-77 season. One man’s afterthought is another’s franchise cornerstone.

Gus_Williams_to_Jack_Sikma

Williams was inserted into Seattle’s starting lineup and his career truly took off. With Dennis Johnson playing alongside him, Williams wasn’t a full-time point guard or a full-time shooting guard. He just went out and played in the backcourt to stunning results. The Sonics made the NBA Finals in 1978, losing to the Washington Bullets in 7 games. The next year, Seattle returned to the Finals in a rematch with Washington. This time they captured the title in just 5 games with Gus averaging 29 points in the series.

Much like the Golden State year’s though, Gus’s time in Seattle was marred by a team that fell apart at the seams and didn’t maintain its greatest potential. Gus was no bystander in the Sonics’ fall. Offered a 3-year, $1.5 million deal by management, Williams rejected the deal and held out in the summer of 1980. The hold out continued into the fall. Then into the new year. The contract dispute ending up lasting the duration of the 1980-81 season.

Finally, Gus and Seattle agreed to a deal that paid him $700,000 a year, but the Sonics won just one more playoff series through the rest of Williams’ tenure with the club. In the summer of 1984, he was traded to the Washington Bullets where enjoyed one final campaign of brilliance in 1985 before the undefeated Father Time began to take his toll on Gus.

Gus Williams’ career unfortunately gets lost in what is sometimes perceived as the NBA’s doldrums, the late 1970s. His Sonics were a top-shelf contender in 1978, 1979, and 1980, losing in the NBA Finals, winning the title, and losing in the Western Conference Finals, respectively. But they lost in the WCF to the Showtime Lakers who ran away with the West, and the subsequent media attention, for the 1980s leaving Gus and his accomplishments in the dust.

However, it’s never too late to appreciate greatness. Memory may not instantly recognize Gus Williams and his Sonics of the era as great, but the history shows that indeed they were, and indeed he was.

Honors

Champion (1979)
All-NBA 1st Team (1982)
All-NBA 2nd Team (1980)
2x All-Star (1982-’83)
All-Rookie Team (1976)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (825 games):
17.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG
.505 TS%, .461 FG%, .756 FT%
18.5 PER, .127 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (99 games):
19.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG
.542 TS%, .476 FG%, .737 FT%
20.4 PER, .150 WS/48

 

Elvin Hayes

Born: November 17, 1945
Position: Power Forward and Center
Professional Career:
San Diego Rockets (NBA): 1968-’71
Houston Rockets (NBA): 1971-’72; 1981-’84
Baltimore Bullets (NBA): 1972-’73
Capital Bullets (NBA): 1973-’74
Washington Bullets (NBA): 1975-’81

Elvin Hayes (celtic-nation.com)
Elvin Hayes (celtic-nation.com)

The Big E is the only player in NBA history to have played 50,000 minutes.

Oh sure, three other players have played more minutes than that, but none have played exactly 50,000 minutes like Elvin. That kind of monumental memorability was something typical of Hayes’ career. As a college standout at the University of Houston, Hayes helped defeat the juggernaut UCLA Bruins led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Game of the Century played in the Astrodome (which was the world’s 8th Wonder at the time).

As a rookie, Hayes led the NBA in points per game with a sterling 28.4 starring for the San Diego Rockets. The next season he led the league in rebounds with a sizzling 16.9 per game. That same year he led the league in minutes played per game with an exhausting 44.7.

However, the Rockets were a dud on the court. They made one playoff appearance, which was in Elvin’s rookie season. A move to Houston in time for the 1971-72 season didn’t help. Hayes feuded with his coaches and the Rockets were sick of their disgruntled star center.

Hayes was traded to the Baltimore (soon-to-be-Washington) Bullets in the 1972 off-season and found much greater success. Formerly a center, the Big E slid now slid to power forward beside Wes Unseld. Hayes was the shot-blocking protector of air space around the basket, while Unseld was the rock that clogged the physical space of the defensive lane. Hayes was quick, Unseld immovable. They complemented each other perfectly and the Bullets were off flying high like Hayes dunking on the break…

Elvin_Hayes_dunks

The two stars propelled Washington to three Finals appearances in the decade (1975, 1978, 1979) and captured the 1978 NBA title after the additions of forward Bobby Dandridge and outstanding coach Dick Motta. All the while, Hayes continued to rack up the prodigious stats thanks to his lathe-like frame, his proficient mid-range jump shot, and his shot-blocking ability.

He wasn’t the most efficient player around, but there’s something to be said for a player who can produce. And from 1969 to 1980, the Big E was producing. He averaged 23.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals in this stretch. His field goal percentage nestled in at 45% and his free throws at 67%. Again, not the most efficient player, but efficiency is just but one measure of a man. Hayes in this same 12-year stretch averaged 42 minutes a game and missed only six games.

Give him immense credit for those marks of health and longevity. At age 36 in the 1981-82, he started all 82 games for the Houston Rockets (he was traded back to the Rockets in 1981) and played 37 minutes a night doing so. Only Wilt Chamberlain at that same age played more minutes than Hayes mustered.

Upon his retirement in 1984, after that second-stint with the Rockets, the Big E ranked third all-time in points, rebounds, and blocks. And of course his minutes played were the most at that time. So were his games played.

These prodigious stats certainly don’t mean Elvin was perfect or without fault. His shooting percentage was a bit low for a power forward. His free throw percentage a tad woeful. But these nitpicks are just that, nitpicks.

He’s one of the handful of truly great power forwards in the game’s history… even if we tend to forget that fact.

Honors

Champion (1978)
3x All-NBA 1st Team (1975, 1977, 1979)
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1973-74, 1976)
2x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1974-75)
All-Rookie Team (1969)
12x All-Star (1969-80)

Statistics

Regular Season Career Averages (1303 games):
21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG
.491 TS%, .452 FG%, .670 FT%
17.7 PER, .116 WS/48

Playoff Career Averages (96 games):
22.9 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.1 SPG
.501 TS%, .464 FG%, .652 FT%
19.1 PER, .135 WS/48