San Antonio Spurs: Who is Artis Gilmore?

BOSTON - 1981: Artis Gilmore
BOSTON - 1981: Artis Gilmore /

A look back at Artis Gilmore, who played for the San Antonio Spurs in the 1980’s.

The San Antonio Spurs, over the past 30 years, are known for big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan. They carried the team to five total NBA championships and are known as two of the top Spurs in franchise history.

Before them was George Gervin, Johnny Moore, and James Silas, three backcourt players that carried the team in the 1970’s and into the 80’s. However, in the midst of them was a center, Artis Gilmore, who was San Antonio’s best center of all time before Robinson and Duncan.

Gilmore was one of the ABA’s most talented players in its brief existence. He joined in the 1971-72 season, and immediately put up 23.8 points and 17.8 rebounds, the latter of which was the best in the league. Gilmore did this for three of the next four seasons.

After the Kentucky Colonels folded, Gilmore went to the NBA as part of the merger and joined the Chicago Bulls. He continued his top-end play, which fell slightly below the ABA numbers, but finished with a cool 19.3 points and 11.1 rebounds.

In the 1982 offseason, the Spurs made a trade for Gilmore. They sent Dan Corzine and Mark Olberding. It paired Gilmore with Gervin, Moore, and Mike Mitchell to form a dynamic core that won 53 games in the 1982-83 season.

For the 1982-83 season, Gilmore had what turned out to be his best year of his time with the Spurs. The 18 points and 12 rebounds he put up were one of the best marks of his NBA career, along with 2.3 blocks and a 62.6 field goal percentage. It made the Jacksonville University product remarkably efficient, and stayed this way for the next few seasons.

By age 34, or the second season of Gilmore’s Spurs career, his numbers started to tail off. He had 15.3 points and 10.3 rebounds, but also faced injuries that limited him to just 64 games.

At age 35, Gilmore ascended back to one of the NBA’s top centers. He played 81 games and put up 19.1 points, a mark he hadn’t put up since his third NBA season in 1978-79.

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The final two years of Gilmore’s Spurs career slip. He never put up another double-double, but had a respectable 14 points and 8 rebounds to remain effective. It lasted until he got traded in the 1987 offseason, back to the Bulls, for a second round pick.

It’s only an outline of what Gilmore did with the Spurs, but he had enough statistical production to be a noteworthy player in the franchise’s history. He won’t be known as a San Antonio Spur for his basketball legacy. Instead, as a center that was one of the best of the 1970’s and early 80’s.