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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The A-Train Makes an Overdue Arrival at the Basketball Hall of Fame

Artis Gilmore's Basketball Hall of Fame induction was long overdue and hopefully is just the first step in a process that will result in the eventual induction of other worthy ABA stalwarts such as Roger Brown and Mel Daniels. It is fitting that Julius Erving--whose greatness came to symbolize the ABA before paving the way for the 1976 ABA-NBA merger that became the cornerstone of modern professional basketball--presented Gilmore during Friday's ceremony; Erving has always been proud of his ABA roots and he has remained loyal to his teammates and opponents from that bygone era.

It is baffling that it took the Hall so long to finally honor Gilmore but this is a time to celebrate all that Gilmore accomplished and to commend Jerry Colangelo for setting the Basketball Hall of Fame on the correct course.

For many years I have passionately insisted that the Basketball Hall of Fame must acknowledge the ABA's importance by honoring the league's great players and coaches, men who accomplished at least as much as their NBA contemporaries did. I strongly believe that writers and commentators who have been blessed with a bigger platform than I currently have did a great disservice to this profession and to basketball history/basketball justice by wasting many words and much bandwidth on nonsense when they should have used their influence to hasten the pace at which the Basketball Hall of Fame evolved--and then perhaps Artis Gilmore's mother would have been alive to witness her son receiving the sport's highest honor.

Here are links to and quotes from a few of the articles I wrote about the way that ABA history has been neglected and about Gilmore's Hall of Fame worthiness:

ABA Numbers Should Also Count (May 2001)

Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Rick Barry. George "the Iceman" Gervin. David Thompson. Artis Gilmore. That looks like a formidable starting five, but there is one way to contain them. Each of these players spent time in the ABA--and the NBA has put the ultimate defensive clamps on them by acting like those seasons do not exist.

Artis Gilmore: Still Waiting for Hall of Fame Call (July 5, 2005)

When Gilmore finally assumes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, he will need quite a plaque to detail his accomplishments. Put "Artis Gilmore: Tough, Durable and Consistent" in bold letters at the top and follow it with these achievements:

- NCAA rebounding champion in 1970 and 1971

- All-time NCAA Division I career rebounding average leader (22.7 rpg)

- One of five NCAA Division I players with career averages of 20+ ppg and 20+ rpg

- 1972 ABA MVP and Rookie of the Year

- ABA regular season single game record 40 rebounds versus New York, 2/3/74

- Four-time ABA rebounding champion (1972-74, 76)

- Two-time ABA field goal percentage champion (1972-73)

- Two-time ABA shot blocking champion (1972-73)

- 1974 ABA All-Star Game MVP

- 1975 ABA Playoff MVP

- Five-time All-ABA 1st Team selection (1972-76)

- Four-time ABA All-Defensive Team selection (1973-76)

- Appeared in 670 consecutive ABA/NBA games

- 11 All-Star selections in 17 ABA/NBA seasons

- Ranked in the top ten in rebounding in 12 of 17 ABA/NBA seasons

- Ranked in the top ten in blocked shots in 13 of 17 ABA/NBA seasons

- Ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage in 15 of 17 ABA/NBA seasons

- Four-time NBA field goal percentage champion (1981-84)

- One of seven unanimous selections to the 1997 ABA All-Time Team

- Ranks first in career ABA/NBA regular season field goal percentage (.582); also holds the NBA (.599) and ABA (.558) career records

- Ranks third in career ABA/NBA regular season blocked shots (3178)

- Ranks fifth in career ABA/NBA regular season rebounds (16,330)

- Ranks 18th in career ABA/NBA regular season points (24,941)

Artis Gilmore: When Will the A-Train Arrive at the Hall of Fame? (December 9, 2005)

The NBA and four ABA teams merged prior to the 1976-77 season. The Kentucky and St. Louis owners received financial compensation instead of joining the combined league. ABA players whose teams folded were placed into a dispersal draft; Artis Gilmore was selected first overall by the Chicago Bulls.

Playing for a new team in a different league had little effect on Gilmore's statistics. The Bulls played at a slower tempo than the Colonels, so Gilmoreā€™s scoring declined a bit, but he remained a top rebounder (13.0 rpg, fourth in the NBA), shot blocker (2.5 bpg, fourth in the league) and field goal shooter (.522, tenth in the league). The Bulls qualified for the playoffs, but had the misfortune of playing the eventual champion Portland Trailblazers in the first round. Portland won 2-1.

Gilmore played for the Bulls from 1976-1982 and he ranked in the top ten in rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage every year except 1979-80, when injuries kept him out of 34 games, snapping his streak of appearing in 670 straight ABA/NBA regular season games; even that year he still ranked third in field goal percentage.

It was a dream come true for me--and long overdue justice served--to finally hear Artis Gilmore give his acceptance speech as a Basketball Hall of Famer. Gilmore may not be as flashy or as glib as other players but his heartfelt words demonstrated his intelligence, sense of humor and gentle soul.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:34 AM

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