HOUSTON (CW39) — The Houston Rockets will add another number that will hang from the Toyota Center rafters, this one dedicated to the legend known as “The Big E.”
The team announced that it will retire No. 44 in tribute to Elvin Hayes, the NBA Hall of Famer who played for the Rockets from 1968 to 1972, becoming the first star player for the franchise.
The ceremony will take place on Friday, Nov. 18 at halftime of the Rockets’ game against Indiana. The team will wear its green San Diego Hardwood Classic jerseys, which are similar to the one Hayes wore in the franchise’s first season in San Diego in 1967.
Hayes becomes the seventh Rockets player to have his jersey number retired, joining Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy, Hakeem Olajuwon, Rudy Tomjanovich, and Yao Ming. Former general manager Carroll Dawson also had his initials retired.
Hayes was also a star at the University of Houston, where he was a two-time consensus All-American and the Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year in 1968, the same year the Cougars beat UCLA at the Astrodome to stop the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak.
Houston made it all the way to the NCAA national championship game that season, but lost to that same UCLA team. Hayes also has his No. 44 retired by UH.
“Elvin was the original basketball superstar in the City of Houston and has a lasting legacy with not only the NBA and the Rockets, but the University of Houston as well,” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said. “We’re excited to honor Elvin and his family this November and see his jersey hang where it belongs, alongside the other legends from our franchise’s storied history.”
Hayes was taken by the San Diego Rockets with the first overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft, and averaged 28.4 points in his first season, and still is the last rookie in NBA history to lead the league in scoring.
Hayes came back to Houston when the franchise was relocated from San Diego in 1971. But in June of 1972, Hayes was traded to the Baltimore Bullets. In his four years with the Rockets, Hayes averaged 27.4 points and 16.3 rebounds.
In 1981, Hayes was reacquired by the Rockets and spent his final three seasons with Houston, retiring at the end of the 1983-84 season. He entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.
“The Big E” was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996 and to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.