The Charlotte Hornets used 5th overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft to select legendary 'Flying Illini' and All-American Kendall Gill. Even though he had a tough time as a rookie trying to fit into Hornets rotation, alongside already established backcourt mates 'Muggsy' Bogues and Rex Chapman, Gill immediately showed the flashes of brilliance and was selected to 1991 NBA First All-Rookie Team.
After the 1991 addition of Larry Johnson and departure of Rex Chapman to Washington Bullets it had all opened for 6'6'' guard who had a breakthrough year in 1991-92 averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 boards and 4.2 dimes per game, while shooting 46.7% from the field, for the still improving Hornets squad.
Year after, in 1993, after he helped Hornets to reach the NBA postseason for the first time in the history, Gill was traded to Seattle. The Sonics, who that summer also added versatile forward Detlef Schrempf, put together a contender caliber team led by superstars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.
Gill, who improved his defense and outside shooting while with Sonics, had two fine seasons for the contender which surprisingly suffered two 1st round eliminations (Nuggets in 1994, Lakers in 1995). He would return to Charlotte for 1995-96 season but would again be the subject to a trade which brought point guard Kenny Anderson to Charlotte and him to the shores of Atlantic - New Jersey.
During the second half of the 1990s, he would provide an offensive spark and veteran leadership for the rejuvenated Nets squad which also featured stars Sam Cassell, Kerry Kittles, and Keith Van Horn. With those Nets coached by John Calipari, he had his most productive NBA season in 1996-97 averaging team-leading 21.8 points, 6.1 boards, 4.0 dimes, and 1.9 steals per game.
Although he led the league with 2.7 steals per game in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season his production and the role for the still struggling Nets slightly decreased from season to season.
Kendall Gill was almost a Laker?
Everything almost changed for Gill in the summer of 2002 when he, as a 10-year proven NBA veteran, almost became a member of Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Champions in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
According to Gill's own words in the 2016 Naismith Hall of Fame 40 Days of Summer interview, it was late Lewis Katz, the Nets owner, who gave him a last-second call and offered him 7M just to remain in the New Jersey Nets uniform #13.
Gill accepted the offer but suffered a right knee injury after just 31 games into the 2000-01 season. The next summer he signed as a free agent for the Miami Heat. He concluded his 15-year long NBA career in 2005 after one season stops in Minnesota, Chicago, and Milwaukee.
Happy Birthday, Kendal Gill!
Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.