For this number we have a lot smaller sample size to work with than the others. It’s not the most popular number ever worn and one hopes as we continue on this journey that every jersey number is represented well. Despite its lack of popularity however, the number 53 did produce one particular player that stands out among the crowd, and that player is Artis Gilmore.
Selected first overall by Chicago in the 1976 NBA Dispersal Draft, Artis Gilmore joined the Bulls as an ABA Champion, Finals MVP and five time All-Star. Wasting no time establishing himself in the NBA, Gilmore averaged 18.6 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in his first season. His numbers improved steadily over the next two seasons with his strongest statistical haul coming in 1979 where he produced a line of 23.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.
Gilmore was traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 1982 after six successful seasons with Chicago and three All-Star appearances. His first two seasons reaped another two trips to the All-Star Game and in 1983 fell just two games short of an NBA Finals appearance.
The ABA and NBA numbers for Artis Gilmore tell the story of an athletic big man who was skilled at both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. When the numbers are combined, it is astonishing to think that it took until 2011 for him to be named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Artis Gilmore played for the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Kentucky Colonels over his 17 year ABA/NBA career. An 11-time All-Star, ABA Champion and All-time leader in NBA field goal percentage (.599), Artis Gilmore is Hoop Diary’s greatest ever number 53.
Combined Career ABA/NBA Stats: 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.4 blocks per game.
Notable mentions: Darryl Dawkins, Mark Eaton, Cliff Levingston and James Edwards.