Interview with Artis Gilmore
Artis Gilmore was born in Chipley, Florida as one of 10 children. He was reared there, and attended Roulhac High School. Gilmore was 6’5′ at age 15. When public schools were integrated, he attended Chipley High School for one week before leaving home to attend Carver High School in Dothan, Alabama, a larger community 35 miles to the north. He graduated from Dothan’s Carver High School in 1967, at 6’10” as a Third Team All-American.
A star center during his two collegiate years at Jacksonville University, Gilmore led the Dolphins to the NCAA Division I championship game in 1970, where his team was beaten 80–69 by the UCLA Bruins. Gilmore remains the top player in rebounds per game in the history of NCAA Division I basketball.
Artis Gilmore followed five All-Star seasons with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA by becoming the first overall pick in the 1976 ABA Dispersal draft, which dispersed the players in the ABA clubs, such as the Colonels, that did not join the NBA. During his career, Gilmore was an 11-time All-Star, the ABA Rookie of the Year, and an ABA MVP. Nicknamed “The A-Train”, the 7 ft 2 in Gilmore once played in 670 consecutive games.
Playing career 1971–1989
1971–1976 Kentucky Colonels
1976–1982 Chicago Bulls
1982–1987 San Antonio Spurs
1987 Chicago Bulls
1988 Boston Celtics
1988–1989 Arimo Bologna (Italian League)
Career highlights and awards
ABA champion (1975)
ABA Playoffs Most Valuable Player (1975)
ABA Most Valuable Player (1972)
6× NBA All-Star (1978, 1979, 1981–1983, 1986)
5× ABA All-Star (1972–1976)
ABA All-Star Game MVP (1974)
5× All-ABA First Team (1972–1976)
4× ABA All-Defensive First Team (1973–1976)
NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1978)
ABA Rookie of the Year (1972)
ABA All-Rookie First Team (1972)
ABA All-Time Team
Consensus first-team All-American (1971)
Second-team All-American – AP, NABC, UPI (1970)
Career ABA and NBA statistics
Points 24,941 (18.8 ppg)
Rebounds 16,330 (12.3 rpg)
Assists 3,050 (2.3 apg)
Nicknames: (The A-Train, Late Sleeper)
Position: Center ▪ Shoots: Left
7-2, 240lb (218cm, 108kg)
Born: September 21, 1949 (Age: 70-106d) in Chipley, Florida
Colleges: Gardner-Webb University, Jacksonville University
69.8% Free Throw %
- March 29, 1971: Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 7th round (117th pick) of the 1971 NBA Draft.
- August 5, 1976: Drafted by the Chicago Bulls from the Kentucky Colonels in the dispersal draft.
- July 22, 1982: Traded by the Chicago Bulls to the San Antonio Spurs for Dave Corzine, Mark Olberding and cash.
- June 22, 1987: Traded by the San Antonio Spurs to the Chicago Bulls for a 1988 2nd round draft pick (Shelton Jones was later selected).
- December 26, 1987: Waived by the Chicago Bulls.
- January 8, 1988: Signed as a free agent with the Boston Celtics.
Most Defensive Rebounds in Professional Basketball history with 11,514.
5th in Professional Basketball History in Overall rebounds 1 – Wilt Chamberlain (23924), 2 – Bill Russell (21,620), 3 – Moses Malone (17,834), 4 – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (17,440) 5 – Artis Gilmore (16,330).
When you get to the Bulls, you came back from San Antonio in the summer of 1987 in exchange for a 2nd round draft pick, and for a brief time you are on the court in Chicago with not only Michael Jordan but it was Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant’s rookie years together. There was also John Paxson and Charles Oakley. To me at the time, and obviously history reflects that this was the year that the Bulls really started to put things in the direction of a championship and that the pieces were there to make a run.
Today everyone on that team is revered as being part of the Bulls evolution. You played just a half a season with the Bulls that year, but I watched every game that year. OK, we have MJ, that’s a given, but I know your brief comeback had a HUGE part in the boost in culture on the floor. Did that start in training camp and in practices?
It’s interesting how we look at rookies in the Bulls rosters of recent years and make comparisons to Pippen or Grant when they were younger. But you were actually there when Pippen and Grant were young.
- When you reported to training camp that year, what was your first impression of Pippen and Grant?
- What did you see as a seasoned vet when you practiced with them? What advice were you able to give them as young men of just 21 years old, about the game and about being a professional basketball player.
- Being the vet with such established tenure, are there any stories of early in-practice challenges that didn’t go so well for your opponents?
As we read through all your accolades in terms of basketball accomplishments, it all sounds absolutely amazing.
But as I know, as Wyse knows and our listeners know, you don’t get success without a lot of pain and failure in the process. What is the thing that you tell yourself every day that helps you overcome the negative forces in life and keep on pushing forward?
And throughout those successes, what was the biggest price you had to pay to get there?
What NBA fans might not realize is that famed broadcaster Hubie Brown coached you. First, Let’s acknowledge Hubie for being such a great basketball broadcaster. To go from a coach to a broadcaster isn’t an easy feat. We see very few actually do it well. Even more so, his knowledge of the game helped to educate the fan’s knowledge of the workings of the game at such a high level. Sometimes while watching the game I felt like Hubie was coaching the game just for the audience. It felt like you were inside the game. Tell me about working with Hubie as a person. One would think that he’s got basketball on the mind 24/7, but what’s Hubie like as a person both a coach and a friend?
There a lot of articles that talk about your career and they mention a common phrase that you hear of great players, and that is that they have a strong basketball IQ. A student of the mechanics and fundamentals of the game.
- How did you study the game throughout the evolution of your career?
- Was there an influential moment or influential person that helped you to advance your studies of the game?
- What tips have they shared with you that helped you learn the game even faster?
The Game Has Changed. Or Has it?
A few things about the game of basketball have trended in certain directions. There are certainly more 3 point shot attempts these days. We have instant replay and coaches challenges. There is a perception that the league is much softer from a physical contact perspective, or that there is a load management controversy.
But beyond all those things, the rim is still 10 feet up.. The free throw line is still 15 feet away. You still have to be an incredibly conditioned athlete to make it in the NBA. There is always a foundation of the game that will never change.
But are there some things about the game, either newly implemented changes that you’d like to see phased out, or perhaps even are there things that you would like to see added to the game?
We have shootouts in hockey. What about having overtime be a 3 on 3 game or something crazy like that? What are some of the wildest things you’ve been pitched regarding game changes?
So many aspects of the NBA are dependent on the promotion through social media. From the players and the brands that they get paid by to clothing deals, product placement and even using the fanbase as leverage.How do you think your career would have been different if you had to endure the social media exposure of today’s NBA player?
What do you think, if social media was around in your playing days, What would you be snapshotting throughout your playing days that you would want to post and share with the fans out there during your ABA and NBA journey?
What funny moment do you look back on and wish there was a camera rolling so you could let everyone in on the moment?
Wyse and I are having a lot of fun in doing what we do. Sometimes it seems kind of surreal in the celebrities that we make contact with just doing this podcast. It’s a given that the NBA is also fueled by celebrity appearances and you see a mix of player and celebrity together in plenty of social media posts every day.
- When you look back at it, who are some of the celebrities that you met and hung out with that you just had to pinch yourself that you were with?
- Are there any unusual activities that you found yourself doing with celebrities of the era? Either planned or by chance meeting?
Strongest NBA Player Ever?
There are a lot of posts out there that say you were one of the strongest NBA players ever. The images of you playing for the Bulls show that in modern terminology, you’re pretty jacked in terms of body structure, even at your height. Let me share with the audience what others have said about your strength
“Artis Gilmore was a monster. The strongest man I have ever seen in this game, ever”
– Dominique Wilkins
“He was so difficult to guard. The biggest, strongest most powerful player.”
- What emphasis on working out and strength building did the teams put out there?
- What was your personal workout routine? What was your diet regimen at the time?
Physical Recovery Late in Career
You played until your late 30s and started 23 out of 24 games you played for the Bulls in your final year and still averaged 15 minutes a game.. When the league was still rough business and very physical, you’re 38 and banging in the paint with guys almost half your age and probably getting pretty banged up yourself. What was your health routine in those later years of your career? Currently you see guys doing cryo therapy, kinetic tape, sleep monitoring, electro-muscle stimulation, and on and on. What was your physical recovery routine for those days? An ice tub? Sauna/Steam? What was available to you and how did you maintain?
Post Career Health
Seemingly you have had the fortune to leave the NBA in relatively good health and have an active lifestyle now. We see you still love playing in golf tournaments throughout the country. Are there any injuries or other factors from playing basketball that still affect you today? What does the NBA do for retired players regarding health care?
NBA Video Games
I’m not really one to use my time to play any video games, but I am aware via YouTube that you are actually a really popular player in the game and your NBA2K rating is 97! I’ve even seen a game on youtube where your player character scored 65 points and 40 rebounds against the modern Lakers team! The Diamond Artis Gilmore player is actually quite popular.
Every player seems almost giddy at seeing themselves in a game. What kind of reaction do you feel when you see yourself those NBA games and see all the other players, even old guys you played with, having their likenesses and game styles being represented?
If there is a classic matchup that you’d put together, what players, past or present would you love to compete against, if only in a game? Personally I would love to see Artis vs Shaq or Artis vs Anthony Davis or Wilt Chamberlain. Is there a computer generated battle that you’d love to see, even if just for the fun of it?
What are your impressions of the G-League as an option for young men to break into the NBA in an alternate way? We’ve had a number of G-League standouts come to the Bulls and have a really good career, including guys on the current roster.
In the back of your mind while you were playing, I’m sure the thought of a career ending injury is in the back of your mind in terms of being prepared in your life and career. What was your backup plan during those years? What was your fallback if your career had not been as long?
Ryan Miller in Perth, Australia
Have the Bulls ever offered to retire your number and raise your jersey to the rafters of the United Center. If not, do you know the process to nominate you for that?
Kenyatta Wright from Bullseye group on FB
Do you think traditional centers, that play like actual centers, like he played, will return to the game in an abundance?
Kenneth Sims from Joliet, IL
What do you think your numbers would be in today’s NBA game? Wilt once said he could score 70 a game when asked the same question in 1997.
Mitchell Tate in Shreveport, LA
Life on the road brings about the chance to try different regional foods. Is there anyplace that you loved eating at on the road that is still open today?
Henry J in Rotterdam, Netherlands
What other sports would you have been amazing at? I imagine you would be one of the best linebackers of all time, or at least an amazing kick blocker.
Lavelle Jones in Chicago, IL
Out of all of the teams you played for, which one did you enjoy the best?
Trey Blakely in Waterloo, IA
What was the greatest 1 on 1 game you ever played in? Who was it with?
Bill Randle in Lake Forest, IL
Who is the hardest individual teammate you ever battled in practice?
Sean Highkin from Bleacher Report NBA asks:
With the NBA looking to emulate the European basketball schedule with a proposed midseason tournament, as a player who has actually played a few different leagues. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons and whether the mid-season tournament system will work here?
Rueben Garcia in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Are you going to be at All Star Weekend in Chicago this year? Will the Bulls be making you a part of any of the event or festivities?