Harold "Happy" Hairston (May 31, 1942 – May 1, 2001) was an American professional basketball player. He was best remembered for playing with the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA), along with stints with the Cincinnati Royals and the Detroit Pistons. He was a member of the 1971–72 NBA championship Lakers, a team that won 33 games in a row, a record not duplicated in any other American professional sport. Hairston was a 6'7" (200 cm) 225 lb (102 kg) forward. He was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Happy Hairston
Happy Hairston 1974.jpg
Hairston in 1974
Personal information
Born(1942-05-31)May 31, 1942
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DiedMay 1, 2001(2001-05-01) (aged 58)
Los Angeles, California
Listed height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight225 lb (102 kg)
Career information
High schoolAtkins
(Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
CollegeNYU (1961–1964)
NBA draft1964 / Round: 4 / Pick: 33rd overall
Selected by the Cincinnati Royals
Playing career1964–1975
Number22, 5, 52
Career history
19641968Cincinnati Royals
19681969Detroit Pistons
19691975Los Angeles Lakers
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points11,505 (14.8 ppg)
Rebounds8,019 (10.3 rpg)
Assists1,268 (1.6 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Hairston attended Atkins High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He played college basketball for coach Lou Rossini at New York University from 1962 to 1964 where he graduated. One of his teammates was Barry Kramer. The two smashed almost every record for the NYU Violets. Hairston averaged 21 pts per game led NYU on all time rebounding and totalled 1350 pts in his college career for which he was inducted into NYU hall of fame in 1981. Drafted by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), he played professionally for the Cincinnati Royals and Detroit Pistons before joining the Lakers in 1969.

In 1971-72, Hairston grabbed 1,045 rebounds; his teammate Wilt Chamberlain pulled down 1,572. Hairston astoundingly led the Lakers in both rebounds and field goal percentage during the 1973–74 and 1974-75 seasons, and set an NBA record for most defensive rebounds in a quarter with 13 (vs. the Philadelphia 76ers, November 15, 1974).[1]

During his 11 seasons in the NBA, Hairston averaged 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds.

After his retirement in 1975, Hairston established the Happy Hairston Youth Foundation in Century City. With financial help from celebrities such as Kelsey Grammer, the foundation found bright children from broken homes and paid for their college education. He also hosted a celebrity golf tournament and had a small role in the 1981 Happy Days episode "Tall Story," where he played the father of an epileptic high school basketball player.

Hairston died in Los Angeles in 2001 from respiratory complications brought on by prostate cancer. He was 58 and was survived by a daughter, Amber, and three sisters.


Year Title Role Notes
1979 The Concorde ... Airport '79 American Olympic Team Coach
1994 The Paper James Hairston (final film role)


  1. ^ "NBA.com: Regular Season Records: Rebounds (Through the 2004-2005 season)". Archived from the original on 2014-07-05. Retrieved 2008-06-27.

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