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. A move to Houston in time for the 1971-72 season didn’t help. Hayes was traded to the Bullets in the 1972 off-season and found much greater success. Formerly a center, the Big E slid now slid to power forward beside center Wes Unseld. Hayes was the shot-blocking rim protector while Unseld was immovable object that clogged the physical space of the defensive lane. They complemented each other perfectly.
The two stars propelled Washington to three Finals appearances in the decade (1975, 1978, 1979) and captured the 1978 NBA title after the addition of 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.
Upon his retirement in 1984 after a second-stint with the Houston Rockets, the Big E ranked 3rd 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. He had a tendency to shrink a little bit in big playoff games. 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.
Years Played: 1968 – 1984
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)
PPG Leader (1969)
2x RPG Leader (1970, 1974)
2x MPG Leader (1970, 1974)
NBA – 1303 Games
21.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 45.2% FG, 67.0% FT
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1968-69 through 1983-84 season)
1st Rebounds, 7th RPG
2nd Points, 17th PPG
2nd FGs Made, 2nd FTs Made
2nd Blocks, 5th BPG
1st Games Played, 1st Minutes Played