Mitch Richmond’s long wait for the Hall of Fame may finally be over.
The former Sacramento Kings great will find out his Hall-of-Fame fate when the Naismith Class of 2014 is announced Monday in Dallas. After narrowly missing the cut last year, Richmond was named a finalist again this year at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.
Richmond has reportedly made the cut this time around. If he is indeed in, there are many folks who believe that the honor is long overdue.
“To me, Mitch Richmond, you look at his career, obviously I got to play with him and against him, and everything about him is Hall of Fame,” former Golden State Warriors great Chris Mullin told Cowbell Kingdom about his former teammate.
The accolades and milestones for Richmond are numerous. Two Olympic medals (one gold), NBA Rookie of the Year, six All-Star appearances (one as MVP), NBA champion and 20,000 career points. When you think of the greatest shooting guards of the 1990s, the list starts with a guy named Mike, but it’s not complete without Richmond.
Though Richmond’s best years came mostly while he toiled in obscurity with the Kings, his competition never disrespected his game. All the top shooting guards of his era knew they were in for a long night defensively when they’d play the Kings.
“If you think about the great two guards of that era, Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, Reggie Miller and obviously the best player of all time, Michael Jordan, (they) always mentioned Mitch as the toughest competitor, toughest guy to play against,” Mullin said.
With Golden State, Mullin teamed with Richmond and fellow NBA great Tim Hardaway to form Run TMC, one of the most explosive trios in NBA history. The threesome played just two years together before Richmond was shipped off in a blockbuster deal to the Kings. To this day, the three former stars still felt the breakup was premature.
However, Richmond’s departure from the Warriors allowed him to reach his full potential and become the leader of his own team. It took some salesmanship from Jerry Reynolds, who at the time of the trade worked in the Kings front office, to convince Richmond to buy into the opportunity.
“The thing I always tried to convey to Mitch was I understand that (you’re unhappy) except that you being there, you’ll never be the main man,” said Reynolds, who orchestrated the deal to acquire Richmond from the Warriors. “You’re going to be the face of the Sacramento Kings… You’ll have your greatest success as a Sacramento King. You’ll have a chance to achieve things that you wouldn’t anywhere else.”
Reynolds was right and Richmond enjoyed the best years of his career in the capital city. In seven seasons in Sacramento, Richmond averaged 23.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. The former Kings star shot better than 45.3 percent from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point distance in black and purple. His play yielded Kings fans their first All-Star in Sacramento-era history as well.
Despite his individual success, Richmond was never able to enjoy the same kind of team success in Sacramento that he experienced in Oakland. Due to a lack of help, Richmond made the playoffs just once as a member of the Kings compared to two appearances with the Warriors.
“It is a team game and obviously Mitch proved he was one of the elite players, but no one player can make sure you win big in the NBA,” Reynolds said. “You’ve gotta have help and we just never really had enough help for Mitch. He just played on the ‘96 playoff team and obviously played brilliantly. But over the years he was here, we just never could get enough help for him.”
Even with the lack of talent surrounding him on the Kings, Richmond still proved to be a tough cover for opposing defenses. Richmond only knew how to play at the “highest level” according to Mullin.
“Coming to a team that was rebuilding, the pressure was on him every single night,” said the Kings advisor of his former Warriors teammate. “And every single night, the opposing team was out to stop him and he still went out and got 25. So the way he played with us was magical and beautiful and smooth. But when he came here, I think it was even more impressive because he didn’t have as much around him and he still maintained.”
The honor is long overdue and certainly well deserved. If Richmond’s wait for the Hall of Fame is finally over, it couldn’t happen to anyone better according to those who’ve gotten to know him best.
“The most unique thing about him is I’ve very rarely met anybody that doesn’t love Mitch Richmond,” Mullin said. “His personality – he’s so humble and warm and funny. He’s a great asset to this organization.”