Fox Sports is reporting that UNLV college basketball legend Armen "the Hammer" Gilliam,has passed away. Gilliam was part of the legendary 1987 UNLV Runnin' Rebels team coached by Jerry Tarkanian. Gilliam, who changed the spelling of his name from "Armon" to "Armen" to aid in pronunciation, was called the Hammer because of his tough style of playing ball.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office in Pennsylvania said Wednesday that Gilliam died Tuesday night at the LA Fitness gym in Bridgeville while he was playing basketball.
The office said the cause of death has not yet been determined; an autopsy is likely to be completed later Wednesday. It is being widely reported that Gilliam died of a heart attack.
The Associated Press reports that Gilliam was the leading scorer on the 1987 UNLV team coached by Jerry Tarkanian. In a statement released by UNLV, Tarkanian, who coached basketball there from 1973 to 1992, called him one of the best players the university ever had.
"In my ratings, I had Larry Johnson No. 1 and Armen No. 2. He was such a great person. Everybody loved him, and he loved everybody," Tarkanian said. "He was such a gentle person and such a caring guy. I am all shook up over it. I think the world of him and am just really shocked."
Gilliam's No. 35 UNLV jersey was retired during a halftime ceremony at the Thomas & Mack Center in November 2007. He became the eighth player in the program's history to receive that honor. He played at UNLV from 1984 to 1987 and was a key member of UNLV's second NCAA Final Four team in 1987. That team finished the season with a 37-2 overall record and was 18-0 in Big West Conference play. He went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. He was 47.
Read more at Fox Sports.
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