When Eddie Gill decided to call it a career after the 2012 basketball season, he retired as one of the better-traveled players that the game has ever seen. Playing for 18 teams across 11 leagues in seven countries across three different continents, Gill had the opportunity to see more of the world than most could ever imagine.
While some would take all of that travel as a negative, seeing it as though they weren’t able to stick in one place for an extended period of time, Gill saw it as a chance to explore all of the different cultures and customs that the world has to offer.
He ended his career playing for the Townsville Crocodiles in Australia, which was a long ways away from where he was introduced to the game that he would come to love: Aurora, Colorado.
In an interview with RidiculousUpside.com, Gill noted that he began playing the game as many do, in his driveway with his father, his uncle and his cousins. He grew up with the game and through it he was able to form a strong bond with his father.
When he was nine years old, he was dealt with the biggest blow he had been dealt, even to this day. "When I was nine years old, my father passed away. Growing up without him was by far the biggest challenge that I had faced and it was just a lot to take. I had some older cousins and uncles that I looked up as father figures and they really helped show me how to be a man," Gill said.
With the help of his uncles, older cousins and his mother, Gill was able to continue his development both as a person and as a basketball player. His growth in basketball helped him stand out at Overland High School and he parlayed that into a spot with the College of Eastern Utah.
"I their coach recruited me as a junior in high school and through that I developed a good relationship with him. I thought that he had my best interests at heart," Gill added. "I just had a loyalty with him that gave me a bit of comfort in making my decision."
The bond that he formed with the coach only lasted briefly, as that coach left for another job after Gill’s freshman year and with that, Gill left as well to Salt Lake Community College.
"I think community college was great for me; I got some maturity and some good playing experience. I had two great coaches my freshman year who really brought me along and taught me the game the right way," he said. "Even though they were teaching me all throughout the year, they gave me some freedom to be myself on the court and I really think that helped my development."
As would be the case for the rest of his career, Gill once again moved on from Salt Lake and found himself at Weber State. "My coach moved again and I followed him again. He got the job as an assistant at Weber and that played a huge role in me deciding to sign there. I had actually signed with them prior to the season at Salt Lake Community College, so that took some of the pressure off of me during my sophomore year."
Though he didn’t find the transition from schools all that difficult, he did like the new challenges that each of them presented. With Weber State, he was able to face top competition every game and right away he made his presence felt. With only 14 wins the season prior to Gill’s arrival, the Wildcats once again were expected to finish in the middle of the Big Sky Conference but due in no small part to Gill, who finished second on the team in scoring, they jumped all the way up to 25 wins and the top spot in the conference.
"I feel like we had a really talented group and our coaching staff really encouraged us to play our game. There weren’t really a whole lot of restrictions on any of us and they put in a good system that fit all of our skill-sets pretty well."
They entered the tournament as a #14 seed despite their conference championship and they faced a daunting task with #3 seed North Carolina, who was led by future NBA’er Brendan Haywood. Despite the heavy odds against them, they did the unthinkable and won, 76-74.
"The atmosphere of the tournament was completely different. There was a buzz in the building that you couldn’t describe without being there and feeling it as a player. North Carolina was a childhood favorite team, so it was surreal to me to see the Carolina blue on the other end of the court while we were warming up."
He continued, "The atmosphere was crazy just as a spectator, so being out there and being able to compete was a whole different level. We were all confident throughout the game that we would be able to beat them, so it was incredible when we actually did."
The following season, expectations were high for the team. Gill did his part, bumping his scoring up to over 16 points per game and leading the team with nearly 7 assists per game (the next closest was 2.2 assist/game) and being selected to the First Team All-Big Sky for the second straight year. While he did well, the team had undergone a coaching change and lost some key role players, which caused them to fall back into the middle of the pack in the Big Sky.
Scouts still saw that he had taken a step forward, however, even though he wasn’t able to display it on the big stage once again. Heading into the 2000 NBA Draft, he was optimistic that he would hear his name called.
"Coming into the draft I was just looking at a lot of mock drafts and I saw that I was anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round, so I felt good," he explained. "When I fell out of the draft I was really disappointed, but I was able to gather myself and start planning for the next step."
After getting passed over by the NBA, Gill found himself in the now-defunct International Basketball League and then the American Basketball Association. They were both adjustments due to the overall competitiveness of the league, but once again they helped him grow as a player.
It was after his first stint in the ABA that the New Jersey Nets came calling, a moment that he’ll never forget.
"When I got the call from the Nets, I was just thrilled. It was all that I had been playing for and I was just really excited to get started. I was born in New Jersey and had a lot of family there, so for them to get to be a part of it, too, was really just a great situation," the former guard exclaimed.
He lasted only 8 games with the team, averaging nearly 10 points per game, and he returned back to the ABA after a quick stop in Italy. The following year, Gill had another crack at the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he was able to start five games.
"I was able to get a comfort level there given that I was there for quite some time. Being able to get comfortable with the guys and the coaches and get a routine made it a really great experience and a good step in my career."
Following his stint with Memphis, he was again without a team. It was then that he made his first stop in the D-League, an experience that he compared to the IBL and the ABA as far as it being full of young players looking to make it in basketball.
After 35 games with the Asheville Altitude, Gill found himself in Europe again, first in Italy and then in Greece before he was back in the States with the Dakota Wizards of the CBA, where he made the All-Star team. His all-star appearance caught the eye of scouts, as the Portland Trail Blazers signed him to a contract just over two weeks after the completion of the all-star game.
It was once again a short stop (just 22 games) and at the conclusion of the season, he signed with the New Jersey Nets, was waived, and finally ended up with the Indiana Pacers. This 114 game stretch with the Pacers would be the longest that he spent with any team professionally and it was here that he was involved in one of the most infamous moments in sports history against the Detroit Pistons.
On November 19, 2004, the Pacers were playing in Detroit against the Pistons and as the game wound down, Gill was on the court in what should have been an uneventful last 45 seconds of the game. As Richard Hamilton threw the ball to Ben Wallace in the post, Gill attempted to help Stephen Jackson on defense.
Wallace spun towards the hoop and as he went up he was hit by Ron Artest, which incited a shoving match. What eventually transpired became known as ‘The Malice at the Palace’ and Gill had a front row seat.
"It was just started out as a shoving match and it escalated to players in the stands, it was sheer chaos. It’s not something that you want to see and it’s definitely not something that you want to be a part of," he revealed. Our team tried to recover from it, but it was just really tough on everyone."
The aftermath in the locker room was something that Gill had never before experienced.
"It was really just disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just happened out there. Obviously no one in the locker room had been in any kind of situation like that, so no one knew what to do," he said.
The following night, after suspensions and fines had been leveled against players from both teams, the Pacers took on the Orlando Magic and only had six players at their disposal, which pushed Gill into playing all 48 minutes.
"It was pretty high up there as far as the weirdest games that I had ever played. We came back and played against Orlando and I wound up playing 48 minutes in front of a sold out crowd. It was really great that after what had happened in Detroit, we came back to a lot of support from the home crowd."
He begrudging left Indiana (though he now lives there with his family) and continued his travels around the world, with a season in Russia and another stop with the Nets before he was back in the D-League once again, five years after his first season. Compared to his first 35 games there (in what was the second year of the league), it seemed like a completely different atmosphere.
"They had made some good steps in a positive direction in terms of getting more exposure and support for the league. In addition to that, the administrative side of things was better and the talent level was better," Gill continued. "More guys were sticking around to play, which definitely raised the level of play of the league as a whole."
He signed a 10-day contract with the Seattle SuperSonics in their last year of existence, and then once again was in the D-League for the following season. Here he found some of the greatest success of his career, winning the D-League Player of the Year while also capturing the D-League Championship with the Colorado 14ers.
"Just winning a championship was the biggest key for me, even though you’re playing to get to the NBA, people don’t get the opportunity to play for a championship at any level very often. I was honestly less concerned with being named Player of the Year; any time you get recognized it’s a nice honor, but the bigger prize is always the championship."
After one quick trip with the Bucks, a championship in Belgium and stops in Germany and Australia, Gill decided to call it a career once and for all.
"I definitely had other opportunities to play and I was receiving offers from a bunch of different places, but my kids were getting older and I decided to stay home and really focus on their upbringing and concern myself with how they’re going to develop. I just didn’t want to be in the helter-skelter life of a professional athlete where you’re traveling most of the year and not really knowing where you’re going to end up from year to year," he added.
Despite his retirement, he has chosen to give back to the game and create his own training program called All Out Training for kids in the Indianapolis area.
"All Out Training is a fundamentally sound and skill development program. I started it during my career in the offseason. I worked with kids through camps and different things I really found a niche there and thought that I would be able to develop a business with it," Gill concluded. "It started out with a bunch of individual and group training and it has just gone from there."
With a career that has taken him all over the world and had him involved in the Malice at the Palace, as well as the SuperSonics last season, Eddie Gill has had a career that seems nearly unbelievable. With all of the obstacles and instability that he faced, Gill stayed cool and calm, a trait that he hopes to instill in the players that he now coaches.