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March 22, 2019

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Rebel great Armen Gilliam picked for Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame

2018 class to also include the Las Vegas Thunder and famed boxing announcer Al Bernstein

Armen Gilliam

Associated Press

This Nov. 6, 2007, file photo shows Armen Gilliam, a former UNLV and NBA player, gesturing while speaking during his jersey retirement ceremony in Las Vegas. Next to Gilliam is his son Jeremiah. Gilliam died Tuesday, July 5, 2011, at the LA Fitness gym in Bridgeville, Pa., while he was playing basketball. He was 47.

Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Inductee Forrest Griffin speaks during a news conference to announce the newest inductees into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Launch slideshow »

The Hammer is going into the hall.

Armen Gilliam, one of the greatest players in UNLV basketball history, will be inducted posthumously May 11 into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, officials announced today. Gilliam, at just age 47, died in 2011.

Gilliam, affectionately called “The Hammer” for his dominating play on the interior, helped the Rebels reach the 1987 Final Four and finish with a 37-2 record. He’s seventh all-time on the school’s scoring list with 1,855 career points, including averages of 23.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 1987, when he was the Big West Conference Player of the Year and led the Rebels to their second all-time Final Four.

For as dominating of a player as Gilliam was, that's not what those closest to him remembered him for.

“I’m all shook up,” former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian said in tears after learning of Gilliam’s death. “He was such a great person. He would take the shirt off his back for you.”

Added Mark Warkentien, a former UNLV assistant who recruited Gilliam: “He did things the right way. He was never in a wink of trouble. You can Google search that all day.”

Gilliam highlights the 2018 class, which also includes famed boxing announcer Al Bernstein, a longtime Henderson resident who has called some of boxing’s most notable matches. Other inductees include: Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and who is credited with branding Las Vegas and bringing many successful events here; former UNLV swimming coach Jim Reitz, who spent 35 years building the Rebels swimming program and winning 14 league championships; UFC great Forrest Griffin, one of the local mixed martial arts company’s legendary figures, who is credited with helping build its brand into the mainstream; and the Las Vegas Thunder minor league hockey team, which decades before the Vegas Golden Knights arrived in Southern Nevada would pack the Thomas & Mack Center for games.

The 2018 class’ five individuals and one team brings the hall to 104 members.

“The class of 2018 is accomplished in so many ways,” Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Lambright said in a statement. “We have outstanding athletes in their sport in Armen Gilliam and Forrest Griffin, a successful mentor in Jim Reitz, a leader in sports broadcasting in Al Bernstein, a community and business leader in Rossi Ralenkotter and one of the city’s foundational franchises in the Las Vegas Thunder. We are honored to bestow upon them the state’s highest sports recognition by welcoming them to the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.”

The induction ceremony is May 11 at the Orleans Arena. For more details..

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at

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