Armen Gilliam Was a Smart, Funny Guy

by July 07, 2011

Following Armen Gilliams’s tragic death at just the age of 47, stories of his intelligence and humor have begun to be told, with the best one perhaps being a recollection by Frank Isola of the NY Daily News about Gilliam’s days with the lowly New Jersey Nets: “Armen Gilliam wasn’t like most professional athletes I’ve covered. In the early 90’s you would often find him before games reading a book. He could talk politics, business and occasionally basketball, although I always felt the latter bored him to some degree. Armen didn’t want to be thought of as just a basketball player or, worse yet, a dumb jock. He certainly wasn’t dumb and he was more than just a well compensated NBA player. He was a thoughtful, sweet person … Prior to a game against the Pistons in Detroit, Gilliam played a little trick on an easy target, Chris Morris. As Morris was minding his own business and listening to music, Gilliam asked the Houston native, ‘Hey Mo, what’s the capital of Houston.’ Without missing a beat, Morris turned and said, ‘Man, it’s Austin.’ The entire room, including reporters, erupted in laughter. Armen then reminded Morris that Austin is the capital of Texas. ‘I know that,’ Morris replied. It was at that point when another Nets player, who shall remain nameless, turned to Armen and asked very innocently, ‘so what’s the capital of Austin then?’ That night the Nets went out and lost by 30. There wasn’t much quality basketball in those days with the Nets, but there were plenty of laughs. Those Net teams never took themselves too seriously, and it showed on the court.”