UNLV's Hammer Falls Too Soon - Page 2
Gilliam continued his on-the-court success into the NBA when he was selected second overall in the 1987 draft. He was the first Runnin’ Rebel to be selected in the top four slots of the draft. He parlayed that hard working mentality into a successful 13-year NBA career and had his #35 retired by UNLV back in 2007.
Yet today, as we remember Gilliam, not many are talking about his game on the court. Instead they’re talking about what a great man he was. He was kind, gentle, caring and helpful. As much as a stud as he was on the court, Armen Gilliam the man is being remembered fondly today for everything he did in his life off the court.
And that’s how it should be.
Gilliam apparently died of a heart attack while playing basketball at a Pennsylvania health club. It’s hard to imagine such a conditioned and impeccable athlete dying at such a young age. He’s only six years older than I am. Yet, there is some sort of satisfaction that Gilliam was called home doing what he loved to do most.
Just last year, during UNLV’s pre-season Legends game, when former great come back for an exhibition game at the school’s Thomas & Mack Center arena, Gilliam again earned his nickname “The Hammer” by playing hard and electrifying the crowd with a monster dunk. Even at age 46, Gilliam could still play the game.
It’s a sad day for this Rebels fan. As the heroes of my childhood start to age and some die, I realize more now how much I appreciate them as athletes and people.
The Hammer has truly fallen too soon.