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The Remarkable Professional Career of Artis Gilmore

After winning 49 of 55 games at Jacksonville University, resulting in two NCAA appearances — including the 1970 national championship game against UCLA — Artis Gilmore was drafted by the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels in 1971.

Signing a 10-year multimillion dollar contract, Gilmore led the league in field-goal percentage, rebounds, and minutes per game in his rookie season, winning him not only the Rookie of the Year award, but also the league’s MVP. He was also named to the ABA’s All-Star team — the first of four such honors in his five years in the league.

Over the next four years, Gilmore won the ABA’s rebounding title three more times and was again named the league’s MVP in 1974. He also led the Colonels to an ABA championship in 1975, a year before the league folded.

In five seasons in the ABA, Gilmore didn’t miss a single regular season game, appearing in all 420 games.

When the ABA merged into the NBA in 1976, players from the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis — the two remaining ABA teams not included in the merger — took part in a dispersal draft hosted by the NBA in August of that year. Gilmore, who was probably the greatest center in ABA history, was selected by the Chicago Bulls.

In his first three seasons with the Bulls, Gilmore continued his prolific rebounding and scoring prowess while establishing one of the highest field goal percentages in the league. Incredibly, he also played in 246 consecutive regular season games during his first three seasons in the NBA, expanding his professional record to 666 contests in which he never missed a game.

Gilmore, who was traded to San Antonio in 1982 before joining the Bulls again in 1987, ended his professional career with the Boston Celtics in 1988.

In his eighteen years of professional basketball, Gilmore scored 24,041 points and pulled down 16,330 rebounds. He also blocked 3,179 shots, including 1,431 during his five seasons with the Kentucky Colonels in the now-defunct ABA.

Gilmore’s career .599 field goal percentage — he hit a sizzling 67% of his shots with the Chicago Bulls in 1980-81 — makes him the all-time NBA leader in that category. Shaquille O’Neal is second on the NBA’s all-time leader list at .582.

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