Blog Entry

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

Posted on: July 6, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 7:30 pm
Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver.

Armen Gilliam, a former No. 2 overall pick of the Phoenix Suns in 1987, died Wednesday. He was 47.

Police say Gilliam collapsed of a heart attack while playing basketball at LA Fitness in Collier Township, Penn. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead.

Gilliam, nicknamed "The Hammer," starred at UNLV on the 1987 team that won a record 38 games and made it to the Final Four.

Over at's Eye on College Basketball, Matt Norlander notes that he leaves a big legacy in Las Vegas.
At Vegas, Gilliam was the seventh-highest scorer in school history. He put up 1,855 points in his three-year career, and scored a still-standing record of 903 points in the Final Four season of 1986-87. The team was 93-11 while he was there. He averaged 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds as a Runnin' Rebel.

"I'm all shook up," former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian told the Las Vegas Sun today. "He was such a great person. He would take the shirt of his back for you."

Besides the Suns, he also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. He retired in 2000.

On Wednesday afternoon, Phoenix Suns president Lon Babby issued the following statement.
“On behalf of the entire Phoenix Suns family, I’d like to express our sadness at the news of the passing of Armen Gilliam and offer our condolences to his family.  Armen will always have a place in Suns history as only the second No. 2 overall pick for the franchise, but the rugged, tough enforcer known as ‘The Hammer’ on the court will be remembered by his former teammates and our fans for his easygoing nature off the court.”
Gilliam briefly ended his retirement, playing for the Pittsburgh Xplosion (Gilliam is from Pittsburgh), an expansion team in the American Basketball Association, in the 2005-2006 season. He was also the team's coach.
In his 13 NBA seasons, Gilliam, a 6-9 forward, averaged 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was always one of the most powerful, physical players in the league, hence the nickname "The Hammer." He was a strong dunker, and while he never really lived up to his draft position, he had a solid 13-year NBA career.

And finally, a did you know: Gilliam's first name was spelled Armon in college and first few years in the NBA, but he later changed it to Armen.


Since: Sep 15, 2007
Posted on: July 6, 2011 6:17 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

Gilliam was always present in every game.  I took note of him as much as any of the other UNLV players on those fierce teams.  He truly played both sides of the ball.  His defense was very evident when he was going up against some of the top tier talent in the league.  He was invaluable to go with the finesse of a Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson, and the rest of the "star" players.  Tarkanian praised him as much as anybody for his dedication and attentitiveness to him as a coach.  The guy was a true model of the player that had to be gifted playing in the 80s.  He will be missed.  R.I.P. Armen.

Since: Jan 5, 2010
Posted on: July 6, 2011 6:11 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

This is ad, especially from a die hard Nets fan like myself. He seemed to always be a class act. What a shame.

Since: Oct 3, 2009
Posted on: July 6, 2011 5:16 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

Loved him when he played for the Nets. Very sad to hear about this. Seemed like a real good guy as well as a good player.

Since: May 7, 2011
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:49 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

Damn! He was one of my favorite players from UNLV.........RIP "Hammer"!

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:20 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

RIP Armen.  To go #2 in one of the best drafts of all time is a pretty darn good claim to fame.

It's the same draft where the Spurs got David Robinson, The Bulls got Pippen and Grant, The Pacers got Reggie Miller, The Knicks got Mark Jackson, The Suns got Kevin Johnson, and The Celtics got Reggie Lewis. Wow!

Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:15 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

Very sad news about Gilliam...47 is way too young, but at least he went out playing hoops, which is something he obviously loved to do.

That UNLV team was very exciting to thing though, the article is incorrect, they won 37 games (not 38 as the article says) during the 1986-87 season.

Since: Oct 26, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 3:27 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

One of my favorite players at the time. He was an excellent college player and I was happy to see him play for our Sixers. I am sad and sorry for his family that he left behind way too early. He will be missed. Rest in peace, Armen. We'll keep playing hoops for you! 

Since: Nov 3, 2007
Posted on: July 6, 2011 3:00 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

RIP Armen Gilliam.

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: July 6, 2011 2:56 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

RIP Hammer.  You were one of the reasons I fell in love with UNLV in the first place.  To be only 47 years old, it is so sad to hear you died playing the game you loved.  DAMN! I am so upset.  I loved Armen for how he played and how hard he played and now he is gone.  I really wish I had more things to say right now, but this is so sad.  RIP Hammer, we Rebels will always remember!

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: July 6, 2011 2:42 pm

Former No. 2 overall pick Armen Gilliam dies

I remember him being "soft". He was hardly the Charles Oakley, Rick Mahorn type like the article says.
That's all relative though, being soft compared to those thugs might still be a physical presence and force for another ? I agree with you though, at the collegiate level he was physical, even though UNLV was a team that ran like the Lakers showtime under Tarkanian. Athletic finesse was the game plan.

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