WASHINGTON BULLETS FORWARD ELVIN HAYES MAY 8, 1978

June 08, 1997

Elvin Hayes made news during the NBA All-Star weekend in
February, not just because he was among those honored as one of
the 50 greatest players in league history but also for his
pointed remarks about Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia 76ers'
flamboyant rookie point guard. "Iverson plays like a runaway
train," Hayes said. "The bottom line is what your team does, and
his team is not doing anything. If he doesn't show respect for
the top players, then maybe he should read up on them. His head
is in the wrong place."

Hayes's words no doubt arched the eyebrows of many longtime NBA
followers who can recall a time when similar criticism was
directed at a talented but petulant young power forward named
Elvin Hayes. Like Iverson, the Big E was the top pick in the NBA
draft, in 1968, and during his first few years in the league his
reputation as a bad actor was matched only by his reputation for
folding in the clutch. Alex Hannum, one of Hayes's coaches with
the San Diego Rockets, once described Hayes as "the most
despicable person I've ever met in sports," and when Hayes was
traded to the Baltimore Bullets in '72, Baltimore coach Gene
Shue joked that Hayes's psychiatrist was part of the deal. But
Hayes matured as a player and a person during his 16-year career
and eventually fulfilled the promise he had shown as a
three-time All-America at Houston. Hayes led the Bullets (by
then the Washington Bullets) to the '78 NBA championship. He is
fourth on the NBA's alltime list in scoring, fourth in
rebounding and second in minutes played. "When I left
basketball, I was much more humble than when I first came," says
Hayes.

Following his retirement in 1984, Hayes returned to Houston to
complete his degree in speech communication. After spending a
year as a special assistant athletic director at the school, he
began dabbling in the used-car business. Today Hayes, 51, who
grew up in the segregated, cotton-mill town of Rayville, La.,
owns two new-car dealerships in Houston and sits on the board of
directors of the local chapter of the American Red Cross
Association. "I always liked cars, so I'm still doing something
I love," says Hayes, who lives with Erna, his wife of 30 years
and the mother of his four children, Elvin Jr., Ethan, Elisse
and Erica. "A lot of people who saw me play come by and talk
about basketball and say, 'I enjoyed watching you.' It's not
like dunking in the Capital Centre and having everybody holler
'Eeeee!' but it ain't far off."

--Seth Davis

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Elvin Hayes]

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