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The Vault
November 30, 2009
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November 30, 2009

The Vault

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | Nov. 26, 1973

Artis at Work

A dominant ABA center was only getting better

The Kentucky Colonels had recently switched to a fast-break offense when Peter Carry reported on the team and its 24-year-old big man.

What would give me the biggest thrill would be if I could grab a rebound, turn in midair and throw the ball out to an open man at half-court before I hit the floor," says Colonels center Artis Gilmore. He is a quiet, perhaps too gentle man whose slender frame—he is 7'2" and weighs 240 pounds—is deceiving. Although his waist is only 32", each of his thighs is 27" around, and Gilmore's hamstrings are so developed that he appears to be running and jumping on the world's largest frogs' legs, a real asset in his newest hobby, scuba diving. The MVP of the ABA in 1972, Gilmore is now even better and one of the league's most improved performers. His hesitancy to block shots is gone, and he so thoroughly dominates the league in rebounding that his average of 18.8 a game leads the ABA by five.

The man now charged with coaching Gilmore and the suddenly fast-breaking Colonels is Babe McCarthy, Old Magnolia Breath himself, whose pro teams previously have not shown any inclination to move any faster than their coach talks. "Gawdang, coachin' a fast-break team is the easiest jawb 'cause ya don't hafta figure awt how to break down defenses," says McCarthy. "I jus' never had the main ingredient ya need ta break—the big reboundin' center. When we git the runnin' game down goood we kin leave most of the reboundin' to Awrtis and e'ryone else kin run like heck down the cawt."

Taken No. 1 by the Bulls in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft, Gilmore played 11 NBA seasons, averaging 10.1 rebounds and making six All-Star teams.

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