Friday, October 15, 2010


A reader of this blog recently asked me about Maurice Lucas and whether he and I are still in touch with each other.

I’m pleased to say that my friend Maurice and I have maintained a very good relationship since our playing careers ended.

Most of you with an interest in the answer to this question will know that Maurice and I were teammates for the Kentucky Colonels during the last year before the ABA and the NBA merged.

In addition to having been a great hard-nosed basketball player, Maurice also has an equally great heart and has hosted or supported numerous charitable events over the years. He has, as many of you know, struggled with health issues in recent years and if all of his fans across the country will keep Maurice in their prayers, my friend would really appreciate that, and likewise so would I.

Let me share two memories of my days on the court with Maurice.

During a game against the Spirits of St. Louis, tempers flared up for some reason I can’t even remember. The result was that Maurice, who was then a rookie, punched me good to the jaw. Maurice was a strong man who, unlike me, enjoyed a good brawl, and he landed a solid fist. Believe me --- I felt it from my head to the end of my sneakers. I think my knees may have gone in a few different directions. Over the years this story has grown to where I supposedly chased Maurice around the arena until, when cornered, he put my lights out. Well, that's a fair amount more dramatic than what really happened. As it was, some accounts claim that the incident made Maurice so confident in himself that it contributed to his career-long success as a player. If my chin gave an assist to Maurice, I'm happy. He's a great guy. I doubt, though, that this had much to do with his many great years as a player. Maurice was pretty damn good to begin with!

The other memory comes from when Maurice and I were teammates being coached by the famous Hubie Brown. Hubie, as all basketball fans know, was a truly great coach and I am honored to have played for him. He cared about me as a player and as a person and I will always appreciate everything he did for me. As a coach, Hubie was a stickler for being sure that even the smallest detail was done correctly. If something was being done wrong he had no problem getting up in a guy's face and yelling until he ran out of breath. A couple times he lit into me so bad, cussing at full volume, that other guys felt bad for me and tried to calm him down. Maurice Lucas actually got benched once during a game for telling Hubie to stop yelling at me!

Yes, Maurice was and is a friend of mine. I’m proud to have played with and against him!


In response to my earlier blog about how I would defend myself if I had to play against myself (an interesting reader question), ug2b asked:

“I love the pinching - did that really happen?”

ug2b is referring to my comment about administering a hip pinch now and again to keep an opponent mentally and physically off-balance.

Did it happen?

Oh yeah.

Here’s a little tip to all you Rec League ballplayers (although I’ll deny I said it) --- referees rarely see fouls that happen below the waistline! A sociable clamping of the thumb and pointer finger onto a guy’s hip will, at the very least, annoy him and take his mind off the game. Add a little extra pressure by using your body weight to press downwards and he might jump sideways but he won’t be jumping too high vertically! This is a nice little way to get to know your opponent when you are guarding a low post player who works with his back to the basket. It’s also an effective way to make friends with a guy who’s gained position on you for a rebound!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The selection committee and the board of directors of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame have announced that Artis Gilmore has been selected to be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame - 2011 class. An induction banquet will be held on June 8, 2011 at the Crowne Plaza, Louisville, Kentucky.

The mission of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame is twofold:

— To recognize those individuals and teams that have made significant contributions to sports and have achieved a high standard of athletic success representing the honored traditions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

— To support, in a meaningful way, Kosair Charities, which supports world class medical care for thousands of children throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

In 2005 the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the 1975 Kentucky Colonels --- as an entire team --- on the 30th anniversary of their American Basketball Association championship. The 1974-75 Kentucky Colonels, led by Artis Gilmore, gave Louisville its only major-league sports championship.

Artis Gilmore began his professional career with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association for the 1971-72 season, signing a record high-paying contract. He was so immediately dominant that he earned the rare distinction of being selected both the Rookie of the Year award and the league Most Valuable Player award for his first season.

Over his five-year ABA career, Artis led the ABA four times in rebounding average, twice in both field goal percentage and blocks per game, and once in personal fouls. He was named to the All-ABA First team five straight seasons, and the All-Defense team four times. He played in the ABA All-Star Game all five years he was in the league, earning the 1974 game's MVP.

The capstone of his time in the ABA was leading the 1974-75 Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA championship and being named the ABA Playoffs Most Valuable Player.

During his days as an ABA dominator, Artis established league records for career field goal percentage (0.557), career blocked shots (750), blocked shots in a season (287 in the 1973-74 season), and rebounds in a game (40).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A few weeks back one of the readers of this blog, ug2b, asked a very interesting question:

".. It would be great to have Mr. Gilmore do a scouting report on himself, how to defend him when he was at his peak, describe his tendencies, his strengths and weaknesses, etc.”

I’ve been thinking about this and it’s been enjoyable to put my mind back to my playing days and think about how men like Kareem and Bill Walton, to name but just two great players, defended against me. It also got me recalling how I went to battle against them.

There are many basics of defense but many of them can be boiled down to a single statement:

“Know the man you are playing against.”

So --- what do I know about me as a player? Obviously, many things, but I’ll focus on three to explain how I would defend against myself.

1.) I’m left-handed.

You’d be amazed at how many players don’t pay attention to a key fact like that --- until they get burned! As a left-hander I’m obviously going to position myself to maximum advantage given how I’d prefer to move to shoot a hook or to drop step toward the basket or to block out for rebounding. Being a lefty is not a strength in-and-of itself, but it sure becomes a big one if the guy defending doesn’t realize it!

2.) Because of my height but also because of being blessed with physical strength, I have a very high shooting average when in close to the basket.

This at face value is a strength. However, even a smaller, weaker man can do a good job defending against a larger, stronger one. Part of this is positioning. If I were defending against myself one of my main concerns would be to keep me out of position. A good defender always studies where his man WANTS to be on the floor, then works to DENY him that position. This is especially important in fighting a guy who, like me, plays the low post with his back to the bucket. Such a player depends on picking his spot, then moving based on his awareness of exactly where he is on the court. Get a knee against a guy’s butt and move him just a few inches from where he is most comfortable and you’ve made real progress toward defending him successfully.

3.) My footwork also enables me to position for high percentage buckets and rebounds.

When a big man gets in down deep it’s tough to handle him. If I were defending me I’d do what I always tried to do to other large centers --- I would not be shy about using a couple hard fouls. Following that I would not hesitate to use more subtle moves that technically may not be legal but sure work. A hip pinch here and there. A nudge at hip level. A small shove in the small of the back. Why are those moves so important? Because many guys who lived in the low post paint like I did have a tendency to catch the ball in a shooting rhythm. Anything a defender can do to disrupt that rhythm --- either physically or mentally --- pays off over the course of a game.

Thanks for the very interesting question!