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Layups: Artis Gilmore Has a Blog

Posted by Neil Paine on September 14, 2010

If you're a longtime reader of this blog, you know that Artis Gilmore is always the answer to at least one of our recurring questions: "Who is the very best (eligible) basketball player in history that isn't in the Hall of Fame?" In fact, sometimes it seems like we should just retire #6 on that Keltner List questionnaire, because it doesn't matter which player we're looking at... unless you're Artis Gilmore, the answer is "no". Gilmore owns #6.

And thanks to a hat-tip-worthy link by TrueHoop, I learned today that the A-Train has a blog, where he gives his perspective on various basketball topics (including an offer last week to help Greg Oden with his game). I was also pleasantly surprised to see a number of guest posts lobbying for Gilmore to be in the HoF, which we couldn't be more in favor of here at BBR.

So here's to our old favorite Artis Gilmore, one of the great centers of all-time and a player who, with the 6th-most combined ABA/NBA Win Shares of all time, desperately needs to be enshrined in Springfield.

28 Responses to “Layups: Artis Gilmore Has a Blog”

  1. Neil Paine Says:

    The great irony, of course, is that we've never actually done a Keltner List on Gilmore himself. Then again, that list is theoretically reserved for players whose HoF-worthiness is in doubt, and the A-Train is clearly not among that group.

  2. Ricardo Says:

    I hope the title of every single one of his posts includes the phrase "I belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame, dammit!

    And wow - they cited a post from a blog I once had! My God, someone DID read it! (faints)

  3. MyArvydas Says:

    I'm a HUGE fan of the A-Train myself (then again, I have a soft spot for big men as my user name may suggest), but how do you explain his HoF probability of only .210, Neil?

  4. Justin Kubatko Says:

    MyArvydas wrote:

    I'm a HUGE fan of the A-Train myself (then again, I have a soft spot for big men as my user name may suggest), but how do you explain his HoF probability of only .210, Neil?

    That figure only includes his NBA statistics. As explained here:

    ABA statistics, honors, and championships were not important predictors of Hall of Fame status, which is why I only used NBA statistics in my final model. I don't like ignoring the ABA statistics, but that's what the voters have apparently done. Keep in mind that my goal was not to determine who should be in the Hall of Fame, but rather who is likely to be in the Hall of Fame.

  5. Jimmy Says:

    I know I am stepping into a hornet's nest on this page, but I have to say that I saw Artis Gilmore play and I don't think he was a hall of famer. Yes, he was better than Dan Issel (why is he in the Hall?) and a few other marginal HOFers, but his most impressive stats were in the ABA, which had a few scattered stars but was not as high a level of competition as the NBA. When he got to the NBA, he was never one of the top 3 players at his position and never made an impact in the playoffs. His best year in the NBA was his first year with the Spurs, in which his team lost in the 2nd round of the play-offs and he was not the best player on his team (Gervin was).
    My vote for the center on question 6 of the Keltner list is Jack Sikma, who has more NBA all star games than Gilmore, and made more of an impact in the play-offs than Gilmore.

  6. Ricardo Says:

    "When he got to the NBA, he was never one of the top 3 players at his position."

    1) Moses Malone 2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 3)??

    If you want Kareem at #1 and Moses at #2, that's fine too. But who was your #3 from 1977-88?

  7. Nick Says:

    Speaking of Gilmore, any chance for another Keltner list anytime soon? I always find them to be excellent reads, whether or not I am a fan of the player.

  8. Jimmy Says:

    As I mentioned, I think Sikma has more of a HOF resume than Gilmore, and I would also put Parish ahead of Gilmore. Both of those players were as good as Gilmore in the regular season, and both made more of an impact in the play-offs than Gilmore.

  9. Ricardo Says:

    I would say it's more likely that Sikma's/Parish's teammates had more of an impact than Gilmore's.

    I would also dispute that all three were about equally effective. Jack Sikma, despite having good size and being a great rebounder, was nearly a non-factor as a shot blocker. Offensively, if Sikma could have played closer to the rim, he could have contributed more on the offensive glass and been a more efficient scorer. Sikma was also done at 35, whereas Gilmore and especially Parish played well past that.

    Not to knock Sikma (who is pretty forgotten these days) but Gilmore was a better player.

  10. Jimmy Says:

    I loved watching Gilmore play, and he was certainly more physically imposing than Sikma, but Sikma didn't just win an NBA championship because he happened to be on a good team. The year the Supersonics won the championship, he was arguably the best player on the team--and was in fact the only player on the team to get regular season MVP votes that year. Sikma had prolonged excellence with 7 all star appearances. Again, looking at his play-off contributions, over 102 play-off appearances he had averages of 14.9 ppg, 9.3rpg, and 2.4apg. I would compare these to Gilmore's nba play-off averages (in 42 games during the same era) of 11.7ppg, 8.0rpg, and 1.1apg. My recollection is that Sikma had a much more varied game, with the high arching turnaround, the long distance 3, good passing skills and excellent team defense-- while Gilmore had a very limited range. Gilmore never missed when he could get the ball down low, but play-off teams could game plan to keep him from having a huge impact on the series.

    By the way--I love this site! Debating Sikma vs Gilmore rekindles such fond memories of watching the games as a kid!

  11. Ricardo Says:

    "but Sikma didn't just win an NBA championship because he happened to be on a good team."

    Oh of course not. I certainly didn't mean to imply that he was riding coattails.

    "Sikma had prolonged excellence with 7 all star appearances."

    7 in 14 seasons. Gilmore had 6 in 12 seasons. I think it's a pretty safe bet that if Gilmore had joined the NBA after 1974, he would have made at least one all star game in the next two seasons. Without question Gilmore's legacy was tarnished by starting his career in the ABA; I believe that league has always been perceived as second rate by sportswriters and their ilk.

    "Again, looking at his play-off contributions, over 102 play-off appearances he had averages of 14.9 ppg, 9.3rpg, and 2.4apg. I would compare these to Gilmore's nba play-off averages (in 42 games during the same era) of 11.7ppg, 8.0rpg, and 1.1apg."

    Starting at age 35, Jack Sikma played in 3 playoff games - Gilmore played in 22, including 14 at the end of Boston's bench in 1988, his last season. Gilmore was 38. You must admit that this is a factor. You think that if 1/3 of Sikma's playoff games were played at age 38, he would have kept his averages up? I don't.

    In his pre-age 35 playoff games (20) Gilmore was 130/232 (56%) FG, 88/124 (71%) FT, 348 (17.4) points, 348 (12.4) rebounds, 59 (2.95) blocks, and 36 (1.8) assists.

    I don't know why Gilmore didn't play in the (NBA) playoffs more often. Was it him, some gaping hole in his game the stats don't show? Did he play for poor coaches? Bad organizations who picked up lousy teammates?

    There's no way to really know that, but according to this site's Pythagorean and SRS, Gilmore's teams were never among the top five in basketball until his end-of-bench playoff year with the Celtics in 1988.

    My next post will show how lackluster Gilmore's NBA teams were.

  12. Ricardo Says:

    Here is how things were for the A-Train. And a quick explanation:

    The first item is the year, obviously; the next is the team's playoff result if applicable, the third item is the team's Pythagorean rating/teams in the league, and the last number is the teams SRS rating/teams in the league.

    1977: lost to champion Portland Trail Blazers (9/22) (9/22)
    1978: no playoffs (14/22) (14/22)
    1979: no playoffs (19/22) (19/22)
    1980: no playoffs (17/22) (17/22)
    1981: defeated New York Knicks, lost to NBA champion Boston Celtics (7/23) (6/23)
    1982: no playoffs (17/23) (17/23)
    1983: defeated Denver Nuggets, lost to Western Conference champ LA Lakers (6/23) (6/23)
    1984: no playoffs (13/23) (13/23)
    1985: lost to Denver Nuggets (10/23) (11/23)
    1986: lost to Western Conference champ LA Lakers (13/23) (15/23)
    1987: no playoffs (21/23) (21/23)
    1988: defeated New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks, lost to Detroit Pistons (1/23) (1/23)

    Except for the one season in Boston (where his role was very minor), Gilmore played for mostly mediocre teams. Only three times before Boston did he play for a team that ranked in the upper half of the league, and never one in the top 25%.

    Now how did Sikma fare?

  13. Ricardo Says:

    Here's how:

    1978: defeated LA Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets,
    lost to NBA champion Washington Bullets (6/22) (6/22)
    1979: defeated LA Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Washington Bullets (5/22) (6/22) - NBA Champions
    1980: defeated Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks,
    lost to LA Lakers (3/22) (3/22)
    1981: no playoffs (17/22) (17/22)
    1982: defeated Houston Rockets, lost to San Antonio Spurs (5/23) (5/23)
    1983: lost to Portland Trail Blazers (7/23) (7/23)
    1984: lost to Dallas Mavericks (12/23) (12/23)
    1985: no playoffs (21/23) (21/23)
    1986: no playoffs (11/23) (11/23)
    1987: defeated Philadelphia 76ers,
    lost to Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics (5/23) (5/23)
    1988: lost to Atlanta Hawks (13/23) (12/23)
    1989: defeated Atlanta Hawks, lost to NBA champion Detroit Pistons (7/25) (6/25)
    1990: lost to Chicago Bulls (18/27) (18/27)
    1991: lost to Philadelphia 76ers (10/27) (10/27)

    Three times Sikma played for a team ranked in the upper 25% of the league, nine times in the upper half.

    Unless Sikma was so much better than Gilmore as to be the reason he played for better teams, I think it's clear that Sikma's teams were significantly better than Gilmore's.

  14. AYC Says:

    Gilmore's first 10 NBA seasons:

    19.0 ppg/11.1 rpg/2.1 apg/2.2 bpg/.600 FG%/.720 FT%/34.9 mpg/21.1 PER/.185 WS48/.646 TS%

    Looks like a HOFer to me, especially after you consider the ABA dominance. Why is Doctor J the only player who gets credit for his ABA years...?

  15. Jimmy Says:

    Wow, Ricardo-- you are good! You make a strong case with the numbers you cite. I would say, however, that the numbers indicate Gilmore was very good but not great. If he were great, there would have been at least one year where he could have combined with George Gervin or Reggie Theus to get his team into at least the conference finals. I just think the Hall of Fame should be reserved for great players (though I have already conceded that I think there are a few players in the Hall who I would put the A-Train in front of).

    And yes, I think it is hard to measure how Gilmore's years in the ABA should be viewed historically. He did put up great numbers, and of course there were some great players in the ABA-- but there were some awful teams as well. It is hard to compare dropping 30 points on the Pittsburgh Condors to someone else's stats against an NBA team!

  16. Keith Ellis Says:

    Jimmy's support of Sikma is sound. Jack Sikma is a HoFer as much as Robert Parish is. Bill Laimbeer deserves mention along w/ Sikma & Parish as well. Of them, Sikma made the greatest impact taking Seattle to two straight Finals in his rookie/soph years. Boston, by contrast, was a 60-win team starting doddering Dave Cowens at Center before Bob Parish came along. It says something for a rookie like Sikma or Magic Johnson to break out and take a previously-failing team to a title (or Game Seven Final). After Twin-Towering w/ The Human Eraser Sikma quickly adjusted & won it all w/ Lonnie Shelton, a much different player.

    On Artis Gilmore, however, Jimmy's stat-analysis falls short. Nobody in the ABA garnered ridiculous stats like 50 ppg or even 34.8 ppg as Wilt & Jabbar did in the NBA. Rick Barry scored 35.6 ppg in the N-BA, not the ABA. Barry never led a titlist in the ABA, either, as he did w/ the '75 Warriors. No ABAer came in & won a title his soph season w/ the ease Alcindor displayed. Nobody ever shot 73% from the field in the ABA. It's a myth that ABA stats & achievements were somehow easier-to-obtain or "inflated" -- just compare them to their NBA counterparts. Another myth is that ABAers didn't play defense. After the Merger more ABA vets made All-Defensive teams than their NBA rivals did. Post-Merger ABAers also garnered more MVP awards, All-League nods, & led in such categories as Scoring, Rebounding, Steals, FG%, 3-pt-FG%, to a greater degree than did the Senior-League vets.

    Thus Gilmore's ABA stats can hardly be viewed as "inflated" in the context of his contemporaries. The '73 '76ers were a worse team than the Pittsburgh Condors, after all. Almost every pre-Merger NBA vet suffered stat-wise after 1976. Look what happened to Cowens, Archibald, McAdoo, & other big NBA names. Even Jabbar didn't achieve the same stat-level in the contracted Merged league than he had thru 1976. In the ABA Gilmore & others played under modern rules. Imagine the NBA today without the 3-point shot! The ABA also enjoyed superior stat-sensibility. The NBA by contrast learned late as a league how to track Blocks, Team Defensive FG%, Errors, & other modern concepts. Everybody knows Gilmore set the major-league record for Blocks with 422, later broken by Mark Eaton, but nobody knows how many shots Wilt Chamberlain blocked. Chamberlain & Russell get a break historically from not having their Blocks tracked, but Gilmore & the ABA veterans' performance can be compared with the modern game. That should be considered a plus for ABA vets' HoF consideration, but it rarely is recognized because the backwardness of the Seventies embarrasses the NBA.

  17. Jimmy Says:

    There are four teams who played with the ABA in 1976, but with the NBA in 1977-- the Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, and Pacers. Their average record in the ABA in 76 was 51-31, while their average record in the NBA the following year was 38-44. This is a significant difference--suggesting that ABA championship contenders were only average NBA teams.

  18. Keith Ellis Says:

    Umm, Jimmy -- the Nets dropped Dr J from their lineup after the Merger. Ditto Brian Taylor, who then starred at KC-O & put NBA star Jimmy Walker out to pasture. The '76 Golden State Warriors won 59 games; look what happened to them after the Merger, even with Bob Parish aboard. The NBA's defending champion Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs by an ABA frontline including Erving, who said he'd've rather seen his Nets defend their title against Boston in the Merger Year.

    The Merger-Year Nuggets won their division in a season of extreme parity prompted by the thickness of so much talent in one league. The best record of the Merger Year was a mere 53-29. The ABA Pacers went 39-45 pre-Merger then went 36-46 post-Merger. Not a significant difference. Pacer Don Buse led the ABA in Steals & Assists-per-G pre-Merger, as Slick Watts had done in the '76 NBA, yet it was Watts who finished 2nd to Buse in those categories when competing on the same courts in '77. NBA clubs that improved post-Merger tended to have picked up key ABA players (e.g. Marvin Webster in Seattle, Moses Malone in Houston, Maurice Lucas in Portland, the Sixers of course), while those who stood pat w/ NBA vets (Celtics, Warriors) tended toward decline.

  19. Keith Ellis Says:

    And to stay on subject, the NBA team that improved most dramatically in the Merger Year was the Chicago Bulls -- thanks to Artis Gilmore.

  20. Anon Says:

    The funny thing is that even if you throw out the A-Train's ABA seasons (which were also in his prime by the way), he still finishes with more cumulative and higher per minute WS than Jack the Ripper.

    Sikma was a fine player, but Gilmore played at an even higher level.

  21. Jimmy Says:


    How many brothers, sisters, and cousins of Artis Gilmore post on this page?

  22. Ricardo Says:

    You said it yourself: "I know I am stepping into a hornet's nest on this page". :D

    Nevertheless, it's been a good discussion and I've enjoyed poking around in the relevant player pages to look things up. You can almost see the era in your head as you review seasons from 30 years ago.

    Thanks everyone!

  23. Keith Ellis Says:

    Yeah, great topic! Best thing about ABA vets is that their stats, from Errors to Off Rebs to Team Def FG% & 3-pt-FG%, match up historically w/ the 'modern' post-1980 NBA. Thanks to the ABA we have a valuable perspective into pro bkb's past the NBA didn't provide from 1967-76.

  24. Sean Says:

    I was born in 1973, so I only remember the NBA version of Artis Gilmore. But even just the NBA version was imposing. The stats quoted on this thread have really opened my eyes even more to just how good Gilmore was, even excluding his ABA days. When you add the ABA stats in, it seems like a no-brainer that A-Train is a Hall of Famer.

    By the way Jimmy, as a Suns fan I remember Jack Sikma well. He and the Sonics tortured the Suns in the late 1970s (including a heartbreaking loss in the 1979 Western Conference Finals, when the Suns led 3-2 and nearly won Game 6 then the Suns started to get some traction vs them in the 80s. But I'd have to agree with what the stats suggest: Gilmore was just a notch above Sikma.

  25. Keith Ellis Says:

    Man shot 67% from the field -- most Wiltonesque pro of all time! You don't have to be a cousin to "get" the greatness of Artis.

  26. Sean Says:

    Have you seen this picture?!?

  27. Neil Paine Says:

    Awesome, great find.

  28. allison Says: