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Artis Gilmore: THE A-TRAIN

The Artis Gilmore Interview
By:  Michael D. McClellan | Friday, May 6th, 2005

He is perhaps the greatest living player eligible for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his résumé bursting with 24,941 points, 16,330 rebounds and 2,497 blocks spread over 17 professional seasons and two leagues, and yet Artis “A-Train” Gilmore finds himself on the outside looking in, awaiting a telephone call that is embarrassingly overdue.  The list of accomplishments is nearly as long as the shadow cast by this 7'-2" giant with the low-key personality and intimidating post presence, a body of work that certainly deserves enshrinement in his sport's most sacred hall.  Criminal, this wait; displayed annually on each voter's ballot is a high school All-American with a trip to the NCAA Championship Game under his belt, an ABA superstar who posted twelve solid NBA seasons after that league folded, an 11-time All-Star with a streak of 640 consecutive games played – and yet Gilmore is forced to lobby for his own enshrinement, reminding the voters of his legend, as if he were a fringe talent undeserving of the game's highest honor.

 

Gilmore’s incredible achievements belie his humble beginnings, where, as one of ten children growing up poor in rural Chipley, Florida, he would oftentimes go without even the most basic of necessities.  Back then food was hard to come by, and his parents could barely make ends meet.  Jobs were scarce – Gilmore’s father was fisherman with no benefits and no retirement – and the future seemed as bleak as the craggy roads connecting this small farming town of 5,000.  Still, his parents were convinced that young Artis could make something of himself.  They instilled in him a strong value system, with a premium on things such as morals and character, and a belief that education was the key to a better way of life.  And while he would struggle academically, especially in the early going, Gilmore nevertheless stayed in school and paid attention.  He also stayed out of trouble, sidestepping the dual temptations of drugs and alcohol while pursuing his first love, football.   A growth spurt, coupled with a minor football injury, turned Gilmore's athletic focus to the hardwood.  The family moved to nearby Dothan, Alabama, prior to his senior year of high school, and the 6'-9½ " teenager responded by being named a third-team All-American.

 

The sky seemed the limit, yet Gilmore found himself plagued by bad grades and unable to make the jump to a Division I university.  He settled on a two-year stop at Gardner-Webb Junior College in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, learning how to study and how to live his life independently.  This self-reliance paid off in a big way, as Gilmore matured both inside the classroom and out.  His grades improved as he figured out how to better manage his time.  He also matured on the basketball court, further developing his low-post game and adding much-needed weight to his frame, the bulk transforming him into perhaps the strongest collegiate player in the country.  By the end of his sophomore year Gilmore was ready for prime time, and prime time was ready for Gilmore.  With an avalanche of colleges inquiring about his services, Gilmore opted for a virtual unknown in the basketball universe:  Jacksonville University.

 

Playing in Jacksonville meant playing closer to home, and this was a huge plus for the gifted pivot man.  He could perform in front of family and friends.  He could visit his parents while maintaining his independence.  And he could focus on basketball:  Now 7'-2" with the musculature of a young Wilt Chamberlain, Gilmore instantly transformed the Dolphins into a collegiate power, as the team went 27-2 during his senior season and reached the NCAA Championship Game.  Awaiting them – Legendary coach John Wooden and the mighty UCLA Bruins.  Gilmore staked Jacksonville to an early lead, but then Wooden turned to Sidney Wicks in an effort to blunt the Dolphins' advantage underneath the basket.  Wicks, standing 6'8", found himself with a six inch height difference, but he responded to Wooden’s challenge by blocking Gilmore five  times, out-rebounding him 18-16, and holding him to 9-20 from the field.  Not surprisingly, the Bruins rolled to an 80-69 victory.  For Wicks’ amazing effort, he earned Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Championship round, First Team All-America Honors, and co-Player of the Year from the Helms Athletic Foundation.  For Gilmore, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.  He had played a dominating brand of basketball leading up to the Final Four, and he came away from that game feeling as if he did not play his best.  Even today he acknowledges that Wicks had everything to do with his sub-par play.

 

“Sidney certainly deserves all of the credit,” says Gilmore, when asked about his first chance to star on the big stage.  “He was able to take me out of my game, and it cost us the national championship.”

 

Despite the heart-wrenching loss, Gilmore did nothing to diminish his standing as the top center in collegiate basketball.  He averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds during those two seasons in Jacksonville (his 22.7 rpg is still the highest career rebounding average in NCAA Division I history), and found himself coveted by both the NBA and the ABA.  The Chicago Bulls drafted him, as did the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, and Gilmore was faced with his first big decision as a professional.  The bidding war for his services was unprecedented for a basketball player at that time.  Kentucky eventually won out, offering him a 10-year, $2.5 million contract, and Gilmore was suddenly plying his trade in the league with the red, white and blue basketball.

 

Gilmore's transition to professional basketball was seamless.  He led the Colonels to a 68-14 record that first year, earning the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards for his outstanding play.  Statistically, he finished 10th in the league in scoring, first in rebounds, and first in field-goal percentage, but the intangibles were what really set him apart.  Gilmore was an intimidating presence underneath the basket, forcing opposing teams to alter their game plans – and opposing players to alter their shots.  As with Wilt in the early days of the NBA, there simply wasn’t a center in the ABA as  physically imposing as Gilmore.  He was big, skilled and practically unstoppable.  The Colonels, however, stumbled in the first round of 1972 ABA Playoffs, where they fell to the New York Nets in six games.

 

Bones McKinney, a former Boston Celtic, was among those impressed with Gilmore’s production in a league populated by stars such as Julius Erving, Charlie Scott, Rick Barry, Dan Issel, George McGinnis, George Gervin, Spencer Haywood and David Thompson.  McKinney had offered Gilmore advice while Gilmore was still in college, advice that his protégé with the towering Afro and mutton chop sideburns eagerly headed.  Gilmore played big yet within himself, dominating in a cool, economically efficient manner that would become his trademark.

 

Gilmore would go on to play four more seasons in the ABA (the league officially closed its doors following the 1975-76 campaign), becoming one of its brightest and most popular stars.  Statistically, Gilmore was a beast; in addition to leading the league in rebounding four times and field goal percentage twice, he was consistently in the top ten in points and blocked shots.  A five-time All-Star, Gilmore would also lead the Colonels to the ABA Finals twice, both against Indiana.  In the first, following the 1972-73 regular season, Kentucky would fall in Game 7.  Two seasons later Gilmore, Issel & Co. were kings of the ABA, dispatching Indiana in five games.

 

The ABA would fold a year later, closing a colorful – and successful – chapter in Gilmore’s basketball career.  No longer contractually obligated to the defunct ABA, he set his sights on playing the league built by giants such as Bill Russell and Jerry West.  Ironically, it was the same Chicago Bulls that would land the first overall pick in the dispersal draft.  With talent such as Moses Malone and Maurice Lucas on the board, Chicago wasted little time in snatching up Gilmore, whom they had long coveted, and whom they considered to be one of the best big men in basketball.  A slow start that first season – the Bulls would open with thirteen consecutive defeats – was more than offset by the strong finish, as Gilmore led Chicago to 20 wins in the final twenty-four games. During this stretch he erupted for 32 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks against the Seattle Supersonics, and 29 points and 23 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers.  The Bulls faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the 1977 NBA Playoffs, splitting the first two games before losing the deciding Game 3 in Portland, 106-98.  The Trail Blazers, led by Bill Walton, would go on to win the NBA Championship.

 

Gilmore’s second season in Chicago landed him on the NBA All-Star Team, as he posted averages of 22.9 ppg and 13.1 rpg.  The Bulls, however, struggled to a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs.  The 1978-79 season would continue the trend – outstanding play by Gilmore (23.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg, a second All-Star appearance), coupled with the 31-51 record and another failed attempt to reach the postseason.  Another disappointing season would follow in 1979-80, with Gilmore hurting his knee and the Bulls struggling in his absence.  He would make amends a season later, returning to his All-Star form and helping sweep the New York Knicks in the opening round of the playoffs.  The Bulls, however, were swept by Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Gilmore would spend one more season in Chicago, making the All-Star team yet again, while the Bulls again failed to qualify for the postseason.  By then Gilmore had had enough; he was vilified in the press for being too soft, and for not leading his team to a coveted title.  He demanded a trade, landing in San Antonio prior to the 1982-83 regular season.

 

While there was hardly a shortage of detractors in Chicago, Gilmore consistently put up numbers comparable to those put up while playing in the ABA.  He averaged no less than 17.8 points during his six seasons with the Bulls, playing in all 82 games five times.  His durability as a professional was remarkable – Gilmore played in a mind-boggling 670 consecutive games, a number almost unheard of when it comes to the warriors who battle underneath the boards.  Yet, media and fans alike were quick to criticize Gilmore for the Bulls’ ills; he was too mechanical, too sedate, and too vanilla for their taste.  They took one look at his size, and they expected Gilmore to be an unstoppable force on the basketball court.  And very few of them were sorry to see him go.

 

The Spurs, however, gladly took Gilmore in the trade.  The big man responded by leading San Antonio to the Western Conference Finals, battling Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and the original Showtime crew.  While the Spurs lost that series in six games, Gilmore had clearly put together another great season.  He returned to the All-Star Game for the third consecutive season, led the league in field-goal percentage, and helped San Antonio to its best record (53-29) in franchise history.

 

Gilmore played four more seasons as a Spur, but the team was in a slow decline and unable to find a championship formula.  He was traded back to the Bulls following the 1986-87 season, 38 years old and his best basketball behind him.  Cut after 24 games in Chicago, Gilmore was picked up by the Celtics for the remainder of the 1987-88 season.  In Boston, the soft-spoken giant rekindled his longtime friendship with Larry Bird, a friendship that dated back to Gilmore’s days in the ABA.  Gilmore, along with Mark Acres, provided much-needed backup support to ageless wonder Robert Parish.  And although Gilmore would officially retire following a bitter six-game loss to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, his quest for an NBA ring unfulfilled, he was clearly moved by his short stint alongside some of the greatest players in NBA history.  Talk about a dream come true:  He found himself playing basketball in the fabled Boston Garden (as a member of the home team, no less), his name and number being called on the radio by the legendary Johnny Most.  He was taken aback by the class of the organization, and the way it treated its players.  He was in awe of the Celtics’ patriarch, Arnold “Red” Auerbach, who was quick to make Gilmore feel at home in a Boston uniform.  “Once a Celtic, always a Celtic” was Auerbach’s mantra, regardless of how many games a player actually played.  Gilmore, in the twilight of his career, and with the perspective of 17 seasons as a professional, certainly appreciated his short-but-sweet ride as a Boston Celtic – something his still cherishes to this day.

 

“I’ll never forget my time spent in Boston,” he says quickly.  “It was a great place to play, and the perfect place to finish my career.  Regardless, I’ll always be a Boston Celtic – and that’s something that I’ll always treasure.”

 

And for Boston Celtic fans everywhere, it was fitting that the A-Train’s final professional stop would be the old North Station.  Now, if those who vote for basketball’s highest honor can book Gilmore to that all-important post-career destination, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

 

Celtic Nation is honored to bring you this interview.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You were born on September 21st, 1948, in Chipley, Florida, a town of approximately 5,000 in Florida's Panhandle.  Please share some of the memories from your childhood, and also some of the events in your life that led you to the basketball court.

ARTIS GILMORE
I guess you have to know a little about that part of the country.  Those were very difficult times.  The race relations were very tense.  I went to a segregated school, all black, which was before integration and all of these other things.  There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity in and around Chipley – it was a very poor area, and my father often had trouble finding steady work.  There were ten children in the family, which meant a lot of mouths to feed, and my parents did their best to provide for us.  They also installed a very strong value system in us, with a strong sense of right and wrong.

From a sports perspective Chipley was very much a football environment, and I was involved in all of that at a very early age.  That’s what you saw on television the most.  Everyone wanted to play football, including me.  But then I suffered a minor football injury, and at that point I decided to make the switch to basketball.  I was a skinny, 6’-5” freshman, so it probably made more sense to something less physical.  Besides, my parents couldn’t afford the insurance premium required for me to play high school football.

 

CELTIC-NATION
After playing high school basketball at Roulhac in Chipley, you moved to Dothan, Alabama, 30 miles to the north.  As a senior you were honored as a third-team high school All-American.  What played the biggest part in your transformation into one of the best high school athletes in the country?

ARTIS GILMORE
Moving from Chipley to Dothan, Alabama, was probably the single biggest step in my growth as a basketball player.  As I’ve said, Chipley was a very small town with little in the way of opportunity.  There wasn’t a whole lot of anything in Chipley.  The school was a prime example; at Roulhac, there might have been ten students in the graduating class on a good year, whereas there was about 170 in my graduating class at Carver High School in Dothan, Alabama.

 

CELTIC-NATION
During the '60's and '70 's Villanova coach Jack Kraft ran one of the top high school basketball camps in the nation.  Players attended free by working as waiters. One of those waiters was a certain 6'-9" Alabama schoolboy who later went on to collegiate and professional fame.  Please take me back to your time at Camp Green Lane.

ARTIS GILMORE
It was a very fond memory.  All of the games and drills were played on outdoor courts.  Chet Walker of the Philadelphia 76ers came over to Camp Green Lane that summer, and that was a really big deal for us, but there was word going around camp that Wilt Chamberlain was going to show up.  Unfortunately, that never happened – it turned out to be a rumor.  But just the thought of Wilt dropping by had everyone in the camp talking.  I remember personally looking forward to the chance of meeting him and being so excited about it, because I had been such a huge fan of his for so many years.  I was also a huge fan of Bill Russell.  I think a lot of it had to do with the position they played – they were two of the greatest centers to ever play the game, and two of the greatest players of all-time, and I was a young, big man who aspired to play like them.  Also, in those early years the only NBA regular season games that you would see on television were those played by the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.  Those were the marquee games for the networks to produce.  Unfortunately, Wilt didn’t show up at the camp that summer.  But it was equally impressive to meet his teammates, like Chet Walker and Wali Jones.

 CELTIC-NATION
You spent two years at Gardner-Webb Junior College in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.  How did you end up there, and what did you do to prepare yourself to play collegiate basketball on the Division I level?

ARTIS GILMORE
I ended up at Gardner-Webb simply because my grades were very poor.  Soon after signing with Gardner-Webb, I discovered that the school’s intent was to become a four-year accredited institution – up until that time, Gardner-Webb was only a two-year junior college.  So had I stayed, my graduating class would have been the first to complete a four-year program.  For myself and others who were interested in moving on, there was encouragement from the school and the coaching staff for us to stay and finish our basketball careers in the program.  We all listened to what they had to say, but it ultimately wasn’t the best place for myself and one of my very dear friends and teammates.  We chose to move on, and we decided that Jacksonville was the best location for us.

 

CELTIC-NATION
In two years at Division I Jacksonville, you averaged an incredible 20 points and 20 rebounds per game.  You also led the nation in rebounding as both a junior and a senior.  At what point did you think that you could succeed at the professional level?

ARTIS GILMORE
That phase of confidence had started to build shortly after arriving at Jacksonville.  There was a gentleman by the name of Bones McKinney, who had played basketball for the Boston Celtics, and Bones had stopped by the university to work with me.  He indicated that I had great potential and that, more than likely, I could very easily make that transition to the professional level.  But not until we started having success at Jacksonville during my junior season did I really focus on moving in that direction.

 

CELTIC-NATION
As a senior, you led Jacksonville to a 27-2 record and a matchup with perennial power UCLA in the NCAA Championship Game.  Another player with ties to the Celtics, Sidney Wicks, drew the unenviable task of guarding arguably the best big man in the country.  Please take me back to that championship game.  What stands out in your mind after all of these years?

ARTIS GILMORE
We played well, but I’m not so sure that we played our best basketball during that particular game.  It was disappointing because we had played so impressively in the semifinal game, and we expected to do the same against UCLA.  There wasn’t a lot of tightness going into that battle.  There wasn’t an intimidation factor because of who they were – mighty UCLA.  We definitely didn’t look at them with awe, and we didn’t idolize them in any way.  We felt that we were ready to compete, and that we had a genuine opportunity to win the national championship.

 

Sidney Wicks had an extraordinary game that particular day.  There was always a question about some of the shots that we blocked – whether or not they were goaltending – but you have to give credit to Sidney and to the entire Bruins basketball team.  Coach [John] Wooden had them ready to play, and he had devised a perfect game plan to counter our advantage underneath the basket.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Following graduation, both the NBA and the fledgling ABA coveted your services.  You were selected by the Chicago Bulls (NBA) and the Kentucky Colonels (ABA), and were faced with your first big decision as a professional basketball player.  What were some of the factors that led you to sign with the Colonels?

ARTIS GILMORE
I had a very young attorney, and I had what I thought was a very good support group in Jacksonville.  They basically advised me that the ABA was a great opportunity to do some things right away for my family, especially for my mother and father.  That was the prize for me, because they were certainly very special people in my life.  So when it came time to sign a contract, I wanted to make sure that I could give something back to my parents.  That was always the overriding factor.  We considered both offers very seriously, but ultimately decided that signing with Kentucky would provide the quickest route to achieving that goal.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Kentucky went 68-14 during your first season with the team, a 24-game improvement over the previous year.  You were honored as both the ABA Rookie of the Year and as the league's Most Valuable Player, finishing 10th in the league in scoring, first in rebounds, and first in field-goal percentage.  Was the transition from college to the pros as easy as you made it seem?

ARTIS GILMORE
I was able to make the transition, but I don’t think in terms of it being an easy one.  Like so many other young players, I felt that I had developed very well.  I was prepared for the competition at that level.  It helped that my body had fully matured – so many players today turn pro after one or two seasons at the college level, and some don’t even go to college at all, which makes the adjustment to the pro game’s physicality that much more difficult – and for that reason I’m glad I had four years of college ball under my belt.  I was prepared to take the banging.  I was able to produce on the offensive end – I wasn’t just a big body out there taking up space.  But like I said, it wasn’t an especially easy transition, even though I was able to put up good statistical numbers.  I was still a rookie out there competing against men who had been playing pro ball for several years.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You played five seasons in the ABA, producing staggering statistical numbers and leading the Colonels to the ABA Finals twice, both against Indiana.  By 1975, you and your teammates were champions of the ABA.  Please take me back to that series against Indy.

ARTIS GILMORE
We had a very good coach in Hubie Brown, and had great a combination of players on the roster.  As a matter of fact, I’m in Louisville right now as part of the buildup to the Kentucky Derby.  We’re being honored and acknowledged for that accomplishment thirty years ago.  It’s very special for us.  We had a very select group of guys who played their roles to perfection.  We had Lou Dampier, Dan Issel and myself, as well as William Averitt, Wil Jones, Marvin Roberts and Ted Mcclain.  It was a very competitive, smart group of players who were able to play very well together under the leadership and guidance of Hubie Brown and his fine assistant, Stan Albeck.  We were able to put together a good game plan and execute it all season long.  And then, once we reached the playoffs, we were able to eliminate our opponents one-by-one, winning the ABA Championship in ’75.

 

CELTIC-NATION
The ABA would fold a year later.  Ironically, the Bulls would have the first overall pick in the dispersal draft.  In a draft that included such talent as Moses Malone and Maurice Lucas, Chicago wasted little time in snatching up one of the best big men in basketball.  What was it like to go from a successful franchise in the ABA one season, to one of the NBA's doormats the next?

ARTIS GILMORE
As you indicated, Chicago was a struggling franchise, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to turn that team around.  I learned quickly that the NBA was quite a bit different from the ABA.  It was more complicated – you couldn’t just plug one player into the equation and expect to turn a losing team into a championship contender.  It just didn’t work that way in the NBA.  We were eventually able to put Chicago back on the winning track, but it didn’t happen overnight.  There were a lot of struggles, a lot of ups-and-downs, not only in that first season but over the course of my career in the Chicago uniform.

 

We started off very poorly during my first season there, losing our first thirteen games, but we were able to win twenty of our last twenty-four games to finish with a 44-38 record.  I think we were only six games out of first place in our division.  It was quite an accomplishment, because the Bulls went 24-58 during the 1974-75 season.  They had Dick Motta as the head coach that year – Motta would go on to win a championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978.  The Bullets had Wes Unseld that year, Bob Dandridge, Mitch Kupchak, Greg Ballard.  Great team.  Anyway, it was great way for us to end the season –especially after starting off with all of those losses.

 

CELTIC-NATION
If there were any doubters about your ability, you proved them wrong by posting numbers comparable to those put up while playing in the ABA.  Of all the statistics and records associated with your name, of which are you the most proud, and why?

ARTIS GILMORE
Certainly I’m very proud of my accomplishments in both leagues.  Unfortunately, much of what I’ve accomplished has not been totally acknowledged.  Regardless, I’m very proud of I’ve done as a professional basketball player, and at this point in my life I’ve come to accept that some people might not fully appreciate the numbers that I put up in the ABA.  An example is the award we are getting ready to receive here in Louisville.  I’m thrilled and honored to be recognized for what we did thirty years ago in the ABA – Dan Issel and myself were up at 5AM this morning, doing a walkthrough of Churchill Downs, and the award for that ABA championship is certainly going to be special.

 

 CELTIC-NATION
You played in a mind-boggling 670 consecutive games as a professional, a number that is almost unheard of when it comes to the warriors who battle underneath the boards.  It is a durability that calls to mind your Celtic teammate, Robert Parish.  Please tell me a little about Robert.

ARTIS GILMORE
I thought Robert was one of the most extraordinary players ever.  I remember the trade that sent him from Golden State to the Boston Celtics, and right from the beginning he seemed to be a perfect fit for that organization.  It really turned his whole career around, and in many ways it really turned him into an extraordinary person.  It certainly transformed him into a great, great center.  He had such a good understanding of the game.  He understood his role.  He played with guys like Larry [Bird], Kevin [McHale] and Dennis [Johnson]…and Nate Archibald, of course.  He knew that there were only so many shots to go around, and that he was being counted on to do the other things that made the team so special.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Following six seasons in Chicago, you were traded to the San Antonio Spurs.  What was it like playing with George Gervin?

ARTIS GILMORE
George was a great player for many, many years.  We had some special moments as teammates.  And after so many years of competing against him, it was an honor to finally play alongside of him.  He was such a phenomenal offensive threat.  They called him ‘Iceman’ because he was so cool under pressure, and he certainly lived up to the nickname.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You reached the Western Conference Finals following your first season with the team, battling Kareem, Magic and an early version of the Showtime Lakers.  Please take me back to that series.  What do you remember most?

ARTIS GILMORE
Stan Albeck was the head coach – he was Hubie’s assistant when we won it all with the Kentucky Colonels in ’75.  We had just beaten the Denver Nuggets handily to advance, and we were confident that we could beat the Lakers and compete for the NBA Championship.  I think we split the first two games in Los Angeles, which really gave us a lot of confidence, but then we came back home and lost the next two games to go down, 1-3.  Everyone figured that we were done at that point, but we were able to win another big game back in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, we were never able to win a game on our home court.  The Lakers played great basketball when they needed to, and they were able to advance.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Your time in Boston was brief, but we have a saying:  "Once a Celtic, always a Celtic."  What was it like for you to play for this proud franchise?

ARTIS GILMORE
Obviously my role was very limited during my time with the Boston Celtics.  But I certainly enjoyed it.  It was wonderful, and for the first time in my NBA career I went farther than at any other time in my previous eleven years in the NBA.  That organization was truly a professional organization, especially when compared with the other teams on which I’d played.   Many of the organizations today are very similar in how they treat the athlete, but that wasn’t always the case.  Back then, the Boston Celtics were long known for doing things first class.  The same couldn’t be said for many of the other franchises.  For example, the Celtics made certain that the player’s uniforms were always prepared – they made sure that they were clean, and that they were laid out and ready for each game.  Everywhere else I’d been, it was the responsibility of the player to make sure that the uniforms were clean and ready for game day.

 

 CELTIC-NATION
Everyone, it seems, has a favorite Red Auerbach story.  Do you have one that stands out?

ARTIS GILMORE
Not really – just that Red was Red; he was always smoking those cigars, and he always had great advice to give.  Everyone calls him a genius, and he has the track record to back that up.  The Celtics have won so many championships through the years, and Red has been involved in every one.

 

CELTIC-NATION
After years of battling the 'Big Three', you were finally a teammate.  What was it that made Robert, Kevin and Larry the greatest frontline in NBA history?

ARTIS GILMORE
They knew their roles and played them to perfection.  It was a complimentary relationship.  Larry was the main focus on offense, taking the big shots and making the big plays.  Robert was phenomenal in the paint – he could score if he had to, but his primary job was to rebound and run the court.  Kevin had those long arms and low-post moves.  He was a little bit of both.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Of your time spent with the Boston Celtics, do you have a fond memory or an amusing story that stands out most?

ARTIS GILMORE
Larry and I have become very good friends because of my time there.  We had a chance to reflect on some of our earlier memories, dating back to the time when he was at Indiana State.  He and I had spent some time together in Panama City back then, with a very good friend of his.  When Larry lived in French Lick, he would come up and visit with me during my time with the Kentucky Colonels.  So that is probably the fondest memory that I have of my time with the Celtics.  Larry and I still talk quite frequently.

CELTIC-NATION
Let's talk life after basketball.  What have you been up to in the years since retiring from the NBA?

ARTIS GILMORE
My wife Enola and I live in Jacksonville, and we’ve worked really hard to give our kids a quality education, and to keep them focused on their studies.  Time flies, especially when you are involved with your children.  Artis II is a good student, and we want to make sure that he continues to make good grades like he is making right now.  That's our primary focus.

 

I work for a mechanical engineering company, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors, in the area of private development.  It’s also based in Jacksonville.  We do commercial estimating, HVAC, design/build, a whole host of things.  I’m currently focused on customer relations and private development, and I have played a part in turning W.W. Gay into the largest mechanical contractor in the southeast.  It is very satisfying work.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Final Question:  You’ve achieved great success in your life.  You are universally respected and admired by many people, both inside and outside of the NBA.  If you could offer one piece of advice on life to others, what would that be?

ARTIS GILMORE
Stay focused.  Continue to work hard, and positive things will happen.

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