1995-1996 Stats: 78 GP, 36.6 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 47.4 FG%, 79.1 FT%
1995-1996 Advanced: 52.2 TS%, 47.4 eFG%, 17.6 PER, 108 ORtg, 106 DRtg, 6.7 WS
All-Star Team? No
Armen “Hammer” Gilliam was born Armon. He changed it to Armen because, according to him, he was sick of the mispronunciations. It’s not “Ar-MON,” it’s “Ar-men,” he said. That didn’t stop someone interviewing Gilliam in 2010 from screwing it up, though.
And that was ultimately Gilliam’s legacy, both in the NBA and in New Jersey: remembered offhand, mispronounced, and quickly smoothed over.
1995-96 was Gilliam’s only season as a full-time starter in Brooklyn, and he delivered, though not many others did. With Drazen Petrovic tragically passed away, Kenny Anderson gone after 31 games, and Shawn Bradley technically playing center, circumstances forced Gilliam to carry a major load of the offense. He averaged 18.3 points per game and led the team in player efficiency rating despite playing much of the season out of position at small forward. (Don’t let that positionality fool you — Shawn Bradley may have been the man in the middle, but he was by no means a center, and Gilliam was a bigger interior presence than nominal power forward P.J. Brown ever was.)
Gilliam also had the best hair of anyone on that team, with a perfectly carved 90s fade, and though the fade diminshed over time, he kept his world-class mustache.
Gilliam, who passed away tragically in 2011 after playing in a pickup game, may not have the explosive numbers or undying consistency of his constituents on this list. But he was a force, an unafraid interior player with strength, and a talented unfortunately forgotten in Nets history. He never whoop-de-damn-doo’d, he actually peaked, and he didn’t have an All-World point guard setting him up for lobs. It’s a shame we didn’t see him on a better roster for longer.