Artis Gilmore on the difficulties of guarding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Artis Gilmore. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Artis Gilmore. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

Artis Gilmore was one of the most talented big men of his generation, but even he had his difficulties slowing down Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on offense.

Artis Gilmore is one of the most accomplished centers in basketball history. He was an 11-time All-Star (five ABA, six NBA), five-time All-ABA, five time All-Defensive (four ABA, one NBA), an ABA MVP and an ABA champion. Gilmore took tiny Jacksonville University to the national championship game in 1970 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

Despite scoring nearly 25,000 points primarily with the Kentucky Colonels, the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs, Gilmore was often overshadowed by a fellow giant during his basketball career in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Their illustrious careers coincided in the 1970s to mid-1980s. While Gilmore was certainly able to have his fair share of success against Abdul-Jabbar, he explained to FanSided‘s Mark Carman just how difficult it was to slow down the greatest scorer in NBA history.

“Between myself and most of the centers, especially Kareem, it was always physical,” said Gilmore. “It was very physical because he was so effective with that other-hand hook shot. The one thing that allowed me to have a little bit more success was that I would [go] physical. He would catch the ball in rhythm and would roll to the basket, all in one motion.”

“The one thing I would try to implement that would allow me to have a little bit more success is kind of force him to change his rhythm and move him a little farther up the floor. Sometimes, it didn’t make much of a difference because he had great range moving that hook shot towards the basket.”

Carman mentioned that Gilmore had an incredible hook shot himself, that for some reason often gets overlooked in the basketball pantheon. It’s an incredibly difficult shot to perfect as a scorer and almost impossible to defend if a seven-footer like Gilmore or Abdul-Jabbar have great touch with it, which they did.

Overall, Gilmore’s rise to basketball stardom having grown up in poverty in the segregated south in panhandle Florida is both amazing and inspiring. From not having proper footwear as a teenager to have to play his high school basketball 30 miles north in Dothan, Alabama, it’s all part of an incredible conversation between Gilmore and Carman. You need to check this one out.

Gilmore spoke with FanSided on behalf of his book, Here Comes the A-Train! The Story of Basketball Legend Artis Gilmore.