Mitch Richmond played only three seasons with the Warriors -- two on those magical Run TMC teams with Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway. But it seemed longer.
Maybe it's because Richmond was such a dynamic player who packed so much production into those three seasons from 1988-91. Maybe it's because those Warriors teams were so much fun to watch. Maybe it's the fond memories that stick vividly to the mind more than 20 years later.
Richmond remembers, that's for sure. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard will enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Friday for a remarkable body of work over 14 NBA seasons. The bulk of that work was accomplished after he was traded by the Warriors, but for Richmond, it's perfectly acceptable for Golden State fans to consider him their Hall of Famer.
"I still consider myself a Warrior," he said. "Being a Warrior was the most fun I ever had playing basketball."
Don Nelson, who drafted, coached and ultimately traded Richmond, regrets to this day pulling the plug on Run TMC, even if his intentions were sound.
"He should have been there longer," Nelson said. "We should have never made that trade. I got talked into that one. There was pressure within our organization to get bigger after we got beat in the playoffs. But it didn't work out that well."
Mullin remembered the afternoon of Nov. 1, 1991, when the Warriors announced Richmond had been traded for Sacramento rookie forward Billy Owens hours before the team was set to open the season in Denver.
"Shocked, upset ... we all were," Mullin said. "And how many years later are we now? I'm still shocked and upset."
Hurt by trade
Richmond said the trade crushed him emotionally. He said it took years to get over it, even while putting up big numbers for the Kings.
"Being a young guy and getting traded after just three seasons, it was just so devastating to leave that place," he said. "I got so comfortable there, and I didn't know how to handle it. A lot of people don't know this, but I still lived in Oakland my first three years while playing up there and I was traveling back and forth. My heart was still in Oakland."
At the time, the numbers supported the trade. As good as he was, the Warriors were only 124-122 during Richmond's three seasons. The Run TMC teams were actually under .500 (81-83). The Warriors did win two playoff series in three years, against San Antonio and Utah, but lost in the second round both times to teams with more size and defensive capability.
Moreover, the Warriors went 55-27 the season Richmond was traded. Sarunas Marciulionis, who had backed up Richmond, averaged 18.9 points taking his place. But Golden State still got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Seattle, and Marciulionis suffered a serious ankle injury the next season as the Warriors slumped to 34-48.
If he had to do it over, Nelson said, he would have found another way to get bigger and kept Richmond. In retrospect, Nelson said, Richmond was too good.
"It's one of the hardest things I ever had to do as a coach because I loved him so much, and I knew what he meant to the team," Nelson said. "He was as NBA-ready as any rookie I ever had. He had the body and the coaching behind him, just the whole package."
Said Mullin: "The three years he was here, he put up Hall of Fame numbers. I'm not sure Nellie could find anything with him to criticize. That's where Tom Tolbert came in handy."
Richmond's only misstep with Nelson might have been the day the Warriors were practicing at the Boston Garden before a game against the Celtics.
"I pointed up to the rafters and said to Mitch, 'See that No. 19 up there? That's my number,' " Nelson recalled. "And he said, 'You played, Coach?' "
There weren't many other areas to find fault. Richmond averaged 22.1 points his second season with rookie Hardaway serving as the point guard, and 23.9 in his third. Consistency was a hallmark of Richmond's career. He averaged 21 points a game over his 14 seasons and made six All-Star teams.
"Anybody who played against him in that era would say he's a Hall of Famer," Mullin said. "You look at the 2-guards of that era -- Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars -- Mitch was right in that group. He set the bar extremely high and kept climbing, and that included playing with some teams in Sacramento where he was triple-teamed."
But any discussion of Richmond inevitably returns to his time with the Warriors. It was more than what just happened on the court. They all became close friends, and remain so today.
"It reminded me of college, how we hung out together off the court," Richmond said. "That doesn't happen much in the NBA, but we did pretty much everything together. We lived in the same area. We'd see each other in the grocery store. Our wives all got along. I would go and visit Mullie in New York during the offseason. It was just a special time."
Mullin will serve as one of Richmond's presenters in Springfield, and he looks forward to the day -- perhaps next year -- when Hardaway is inducted to complete the Run TMC collection in the Hall.
"There was something about the group, the way we played, the fun we had, I think there was something that came through more than just the stats," he said. "We are actually amazed at that ourselves, how close we still are."
It's perhaps the biggest reason Hall of Famer Richmond still considers himself a Warrior.
"It's the only place I played where it felt like family," he said.
TV: 4:30 p.m. NBATV
A look at guard Mitch "The Rock" Richmond's averages over his career and with Warriors:
Warriors Pts Reb Ast
1988-91 22.7 5.5 3.4
Career Pts Reb Ast
1988-2002 21.0 3.9 3.5
Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE courtesy of Golden State Warriors
Mitch Richmond says his heart still was in Oakland even after being traded to Sacramento.
Photo by Andrew W. Bernstein/NBAE courtesy of Golden State Warriors
The Run TMC crew (from left), Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, provided plenty of highlights for the Warriors during their two seasons together.