Basketball fans have lost another former star in the unexpected passing of Armen Gilliam; 47 years of age. This marks the third basketball star we have lost within the last month with more recent deaths of Robert “Tractor” Traylor and Lorenzo Charles.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday that Gilliam died Tuesday night at the LA Fitness gym in Bridgeville while he was playing basketball.
The office said the cause of death has not yet been determined pending an autopsy which is likely to be completed later Wednesday.
Gilliam, a 6-foot-9 forward, played 13 NBA seasons with six teams after leading UNLV to a 37-2 record and the Final Four in 1987.
After college, the Phoenix Suns drafted Gilliam as the No. 2 overall pick in the first round of the draft. Besides the Suns, Gilliam also played with the then-Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. He retired in 2000.
In a statement released by UNLV, Tarkanian, who coached basketball there from 1973-1992, called him one of the best players the university ever had.
“In my ratings, I had Larry Johnson No. 1 and Armen No. 2. He was such a great person. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody,” Tarkanian said. “He was such a gentle person and such a caring guy. I am all shook up over it. I think the world of him and am just really shocked.”
Gilliam, better than as the “Hammer” was a well respected player during his NBA career. One player that Gilliam had a tough relationship was a much younger and leaner Charles Barkley. Hopefully Sir Charles and Armen smooth things out over time; however if not, at least Armen got the best of Barlkely on the court.
RIP Armen “The Hammer” Gilliam