At 7'2" Artis Gilmore isn't your average anything, especially not
your average salesman. He listens carefully, and when he closes a
deal with a handshake, his hand usually engulfs the customer's.
He does, however, have the common trait of all successful
salesmen. "He's a competitor," says W.W. Gay, CEO of W.W. Gay
Mechanical in Jacksonville and Gilmore's boss for the past three
Since retiring in 1989 after a 17-year career in which the
six-time All-Star center averaged 18.8 points and 12.3 rebounds
in the ABA and NBA combined, Gilmore has been involved in
business. In 1999 Gilmore was hurting financially when he took a
job at Gay's mechanical contracting company; he now sells air
conditioning and plumbing systems in Jacksonville.
Growing up in a poor family of nine in Chipley, Fla., Gilmore is
used to hard times. At 17, to help lighten the financial load on
his parents, he moved in with family friends in Dotham, Ala.
While playing basketball for Carver High, Gilmore quickly caught
the eye of college scouts. They recruited him heavily, but
because of poor grades Gilmore had to put in two years at
Gardner-Webb Junior College in Boling Springs, N.C., before
earning a scholarship to Jacksonville. In Gilmore's two years at
Jacksonville his life changed. The lefthanded pivot dominated,
averaging 24.3 points and 22.7 rebounds in two seasons. As a
senior he led the Dolphins to the 1970 NCAA championship game,
which they lost 80-69 to UCLA.
The following year Gilmore was chosen in the first round of the
ABA draft and signed with the Kentucky Colonels. After winning
Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in 1971-72, he led the Colonels
to the ABA title in 1974-75, a year before the ABA-NBA merger
took him to the Chicago Bulls. That gave him a chance to square
off against 7'2" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After Gilmore was traded to
the rising San Antonio Spurs in 1982, the Lakers and the Spurs
met three times in the playoffs--twice in the first round and once
in the conference finals--with L.A. winning each series.
Gilmore and his wife, Enola, have five children, including
two--former Louisiana Tech center Priya and 6'10" Jacksonville
sophomore O.J.--who played college basketball. Last December, at
the invitation of the U.S. Armed Forces, Gilmore and former NBA
guard Spud Webb (5'7") visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Gilmore is also involved with a Jacksonville AAU youth team,
instructing centers. "No matter what I do," says Gilmore, "the
game will always be a big part of my life." --John O'Keefe
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (COVER) TALL TALE Gilmore lifted Jacksonville out of nowhere to the 1970 NCAA title game.
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES
Selling air conditioning and plumbing systems, Gilmore, 53,
remains a large presence in Jacksonville.