Houston Rockets: The 15 greatest centers of all-time

By Tevin Williams
Houston Rockets - Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets - Hakeem Olajuwon (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Center, Power Forward. Elvin Hayes. 3. 169. .

Like the two centers that came before him on this list, the Rockets selected Elvin Hayes with the first overall pick way back in the 1968 NBA Draft. The then San Diego Rockets franchise was just two years old when Hayes was drafted, so he quickly became the best player in franchise history.

In his rookie season, Hayes averaged 28.4 points and 17.1 rebounds per game. Judging from his numbers later in his career, he probably blocked quite a few shots too, but they didn’t track blocks or steals at that time.

Hayes was named an All-Star and he was the NBA’s scoring leader in his rookie season. Who leads the league in scoring as a rookie, honestly? It’s a testament to just how great of a player Hayes was with the Rockets.

Hayes spent the first four years of his career in Houston, including the franchise’s first year in Houston. The Rockets never made the playoffs in those years, which is usually the case with new expansion teams. The Rockets traded Hayes to the Baltimore Bullets in the 1972 season, which is where he spent the bulk of his career. In 1981, the Bullets traded him back to Houston.

Even at 36 years old, Hayes averaged 16.1 points and 9.1 rebounds in the 1981-82 season, his first back in Houston. Hayes played two more years before retiring after the 1983-84 season.

In his career as a Rocket, Hayes averaged 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. In his career, he finished as a 12-time All-Star, 1977-78 NBA champion and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.