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UNLV: Former Runnin' Rebel Star Armen Gilliam, Dead at 47

9 Jan 1996:  Forward Horace Grant of the Orlando Magic covers Armon Gilliam of the New Jersey Nets during a game played at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Magic won the game, 92-84. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA/Allsport
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Luke JohnsonContributor IIIJuly 6, 2011

We all can run long, hard and fast. But what we ultimately cannot run from is the brevity of life.

Yesterday, former UNLV Runnin' Rebel Armen "the Hammer" Gilliam's run through life ceased tragically at the spry age of 47.

A member of Jerry Tarkanian's era of dominance from 1973-1992, Gilliam helped lead the Runnin' Rebels to a 37-2 record and the 1987 Final Four. That year, he set a single-season record for most points scored in school history, with 903.

After hearing the news, Gilliam's former coach, Tarkanian, said, "In my ratings, I had Larry Johnson No. 1 and Armen No. 2." But the best thing about his former player was that "he was such a gentle person and such a caring guy." 

The well-rounded 6'9" forward was drafted 2nd overall in 1987 to the Phoenix Suns, ahead of players like Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson and Reggie Miller.

That season, the low-block bruiser set an early precedent as an All-Rookie Team member. He averaged 13.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his two-and-a-half seasons with the club.  

A trade in 1989 for Kurt Rambis and a draft choice sent the hardworking forward to the Charlotte Hornets. From that point on, despite a 13-year career, he never flowered into the kind of stardom people expected.

His journeyman role with the Suns, Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz came to an end in 2000, after he amassed career totals of well over 12,000 points and 6,000 rebounds.

In 2005, the former Runnin' Rebel prodigy attempted a return to basketball with the new ABA, playing one season with the now-defunct Pittsburgh Xplosion. The then 41-year-old posted All-Star numbers of 23.8 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. He retired a second time from the sport in 2006.

Gilliam currently ranks sixth in UNLV school history for points scored. His No. 35 jersey was retired in 2007, joining the likes of former Rebels Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon.

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