Houston retired Elvin Hayes’ jersey number 30 years ago today

On December 20, 1993, The University of Houston retired Elvin Hayes’ #44 jersey during halftime of a home game against #9 UCLA.

“Here is the greatest basketball player in the history of the University of Houston, Elvin Hayes,” Guy V. Lewis said in his introduction.

The Big E’s jersey was the first-ever retired by UH in any sport.

The Hofheinz crowd, the largest of the year, roared as Elvin stepped to midcourt. He told the crowd, “I don’t think anything could happen in basketball that has meant as much as tonight.”

1993 was the 25th anniversary of the Game of the Century, a made-for-TV event dreamed up by Lewis and TV executive Eddie Einhorn. In the Astrodome, 52,693 people saw the game in person, and an estimated 12 million watched it at home.

The Game of the Century // Courtesy of Houston Athletics[

Houston won the game, 71-69, as Elvin Hayes scored 39 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. UCLA was the back-to-back defending national champions and ranked #1 in the country. After the win, UH vaulted to #1.

“I have very vivid memories of that game,” Hayes said at his jersey retirement. “It was a super event.

“No one knew that night what effect that game would have on us 20 years later, Hayes remembered. “It has had a profound effect on my life. Afterward, everyone knew Elvin Hayes.”

Hayes led UH to two Final Fours in 1967 and 1968, the school’s first two of six.

Until the week of the retirement, Curley Johnson had worn #44.

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