He eventually became known as “The Hammer” in the NBA but Armen Gilliam was best known for leading the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels to a record 38 wins and a Final Four appearance in 1987.
Gilliam died Wednesday from an apparent heart attack while playing basketball at a L.A. Fitness in the Pittsburgh area. He was 47.
Gilliam, who was the No. 2 pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1987 NBA Draft, is the second Final Four hero to die in less than a week. North Carolina State’s Lorenzo Charles was killed in a bus crash last week. Gilliam’s sudden death certainly caught his UNLV family off-guard as they remembered one of the program’s most beloved stars.
"I'm all shook up," former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian told the Las Vegas Sun Thursday. "He was such a great person. He would take the shirt off his back for you."
Gilliam’s greatest basketball days were spent with the Rebels, but he also played 13 seasons in the NBA. The 6-foot-9 forward never lived up to his lottery pick expectations, but he did have a decent career, averaging 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds with six different teams before retiring in 2000.
(Photo: AP Photo/Pat Little)