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by Michell Eloy
THEN Center, Chicago Bulls (1976–82, 1987–88)
NOW Assistant to the president at Jacksonville University
In his six full seasons with the Bulls, Artis Gilmore was a dominant offensive and defensive force. Averaging 20.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game during that span, the seven-foot-two A-Train, as he was known, revitalized a franchise that had performed poorly the year before his arrival, leading the team to the playoffs in his first season.
Since retiring from the NBA in 1988, Gilmore has built a diverse resumé: partner in a cleaning solvents business founded by Roland Garrett, a fellow former Bull; project developer for minority companies at a mechanical contracting agency; partner in an insurance claims adjustment firm. In 2008, he joined his alma mater, Jacksonville University, as special assistant to the president. Gilmore’s principal duties include raising money for the school and providing basketball radio commentary. “I feel nothing but pride,” he says. “I’m glad I can come back to the place where it all started for me and be able to contribute.”
Gilmore, 61, first gained national attention at Jacksonville as a hoops sensation, averaging more than 20 points and 20 rebounds and leading his team to the 1970 NCAA championship game (a loss to UCLA). He spent his first five years in the pros as a star with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association, and his combined ABA and NBA stats suggest he should have been a lock for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But after more than 15 years of eligibility, Gilmore still has no plaque bearing his name in Springfield, Massachusetts, which he sees as a disheartening oversight.
George Karl, who played against Gilmore in the ABA and now coaches the Denver Nuggets, thinks Gilmore belongs in the Hall of Fame. “I don’t think he ever got the credits or the accolades he deserved,” Karl says. “He was always one of the top five big men [in the game].”
“I don’t have any idea what the criteria are to be a Hall of Famer, but all indications are that my statistics say I am,” Gilmore says. Then he quietly adds, “I have no control over it. It’s nothing to get emotional about.”
UPDATE: Gilmore was inducted into the Hall of Fame on April 4th.
Photography: (Gilmore, then and now) courtesy of Artis Gilmore