By Brian Taylor
Remember the early ’90s? Remember when coaches got along with players? Remember when Spike Lee was Mars Blackmon, and UNLV was destroying everybody and the Knicks were good? Of course you do! You also remember when the Hornets were in Charlotte and when they had L.J. and Muggsy. It was then that they drafted a nifty swingman by the name of Kendall Cedric Gill, from the University of Illinois.
As a member of the “Flying Illini”, the 6’5″ Gill was teamed up with Nick Anderson, Marcus Liberty and the like, while being a thorn in the side of the Big Ten Conference. In 1989, the squad made the Final Four, with Gill leading the Big Ten in scoring. The second year Hornets needed someone to take the scoring pressure off Grandmama, so Charlotte wised up and snagged Kendall in the first round.
In his second year as a Hornet, Kendall electrified the Coliseum crowds in Charlotte with ridiculous hops, often posterizing taller players. (I remember him and Larry Johnson on the Hornets in NBA Jam! If you couldn’t win with Charlotte in that game, you shouldn’t have been in the arcade!) Gill averaged around 20ppg for the Hornets, who were slowly becoming the team to watch. When ’Zo arrived, Coach Allan Bristow came to the realization that there was indeed only one basketball and too many heroes, and that Gill would have to head west.
In Seattle, Kendall got a new start, a new city and a new superstar to work with in Shawn Kemp. Unfortunately, he got a new coach who was also Commissioner of the Fun Police – George Karl. Kenyon Martin and George Karl seemed like best friends compared to Kendall’s relationship with the coach. George never wanted to play Gill, because he thought Gill wasn’t worth the $3.8 million the Sonics gave him. Karl would often put him in at garbage time just to piss him off. All this lead to Kendall having a severe bout of clinical depression and heading to New Jeruz with Jayson Williams.
In Jersey, Gill got his swagger back, going from a gloomy 12ppg in Charlotte (again) to 21ppg, leading the Nets in scoring. He also led the team into the playoffs (only to get swept by that bald dude in Chicago) and helped bring Jersey some respect. After that season, he never really came back to form, and did his run of free agent signings, the last of which landed him in Milwaukee for 14 games before retiring.
Here’s the catch: Gill retired from the NBA, but not from being an athlete. Bored with life after The League, Gill decided he needed a new challenge and took up boxing. What inspired him to take it to the ring? Nine years ago, Gill got his dome cracked in a fight outside a Chi-Town nightclub, and he swore he’d never take a beating like that again. Boxing for fitness turned into boxing for self-defence, which turned into boxing for real. His second motivation came from his hazing at the hands of George Karl, who labeled him “soft”. It was a rep Kendall didn’t want anymore. His first cruiserweight win came in Chicago against journeyman Trevor Biley by knockout. (Granted Biley was only 5’8″, but hey, a win is a win!) Gill says he’ll fight two or three more times before hanging it up. So when you get a few, check out his site.