SI Vault
 
'DO YOU PLAY BASKETBALL?' 'NO, I WASH GIRAFFE EARS'
Rick Telander
February 23, 1981
So says Artis Gilmore, the 7'2" Chicago Bull center, who has seen only five people taller than he, two of them freaks
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 23, 1981

'do You Play Basketball?' 'no, I Wash Giraffe Ears'

So says Artis Gilmore, the 7'2" Chicago Bull center, who has seen only five people taller than he, two of them freaks

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

Gilmore played against Chamberlain once, and he remembers the shorter (by about ¼"), heavier man as being "just humongous." Chamberlain blocked one of Gilmore's dunks, and Gilmore still considers that as something of a gift, a communiqué from one Tall Man to another.

Gilmore feels that a large part of success is just being in the right place at the right time. As an example, he cites Jim Plunkett in this year's Super Bowl. "What has happened here in Chicago is that until recently I haven't had talented players around me," Gilmore says. "I hope nobody gets upset, but most of the players were people who'd been cut somewhere else. But now we're moving. We could be a great team. Physically we're not lacking anything. Still, it's funny. The year we went to the playoffs we didn't have half the talent we do now, but we didn't lose games by making mental mistakes and not hustling, which this team does. It's hard to know when it's the right time and the right place."

Gilmore has enjoyed his years in basketball and figures he has about four more good seasons left in him, all presumably with Chicago, which in 1979 signed him to a "lifetime" seven-year contract, for a reported $4.5 million. But it has never been easy. "Artis has pretty much come to grips with the fact that he stands out, that he's special" says Enola. "But there's a lot more he still has to deal with." Even Gilmore's supposed friend, the rim, has cracked him in the head a few times, extracting tufts of Afro that cling to the hoop like iron filings to a magnet. One time the rim even got his shoulder. But at least most people believe Gilmore can play now. The fans voted him the East's starting center in this year's Ail-Star Game, and the Sixers' Cunningham says, "We're very concerned about the way Gilmore is playing this season."

It is the All-Star Game, and Gilmore and Malone are locked in combat under the West basket, grappling fiercely. Abruptly one of them, it's impossible to tell which, loses his balance and together they crash to the floor, 450 pounds of flesh and bone.

Referee Darrell Garretson looks on, whistle in hand. No harm, no foul. What can he call, anyway? These men are out on the border, in a different zone. Everything they do is a foul, technically speaking. The game goes on, and the centers stand up and return to their niches in the Tall Man's world, the world where they do battle and where, slowly, Artis Gilmore is making his peace.

1 2 3 4 5