Mitch Richmond only spent three years with the Golden State Warriors, but those three years were enough to make Dubs fans wonder what might have been. After Richmond was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Friday night, it’s hard not to not think about what “Run TMC” might have accomplished if coach and general manager Don Nelson had not made that boneheaded trade with the Sacramento Kings back in 1991.
it didn’t take long for Richmond to make his impact on the Warriors well-known. As the 1989 Rookie of the Year, Richmond averaged 22 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 36.7 from three-point range. He was a talented, flat-out scorer and by joining the already entertaining, run-and-gunning duo of Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin, Run TMC was born.
Richmond was the perfect complement to one of the league’s most dazzling trios. Hardaway, most known for his dynamic crossover, liked to get out and push the tempo and Richmond was always on the wing ready to finish in transition. Mullin, a terrific shooter, could always count on Richmond slashing to the basket for easier looks. In his first year, Richmond’s consistent scoring helped lead the Dubs to a 3-0 sweep of the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs before the Warriors were eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the semifinals.
Richmond’s rookie season wasn’t just a flash in the pan, either. Though Golden State failed to make the playoffs in the 1989-90 season, Richmond increased his scoring to 22.1 points per game and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor. The following season, Richmond put up a well-rounded 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game as the Dubs beat the San Antonio Spurs 3-1 in the first round of the postseason. The Warriors then lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the next round.
Run TMC had shown signs of promise as a fun team with two playoff series wins under its belt in just three seasons. But Nelson decided to pass on Richmond’s undeniable scoring potential in favor of promising rookie big man Billy Owens, who was holding out with the Sacramento Kings. Owens provided the height Nelson believed the team needed to finally make a real splash in the postseason. Just like that, Run TMC was over after three seasons.
HOF inductee Mitch Richmond recognizing Chris Mullin: “Chris Mullin, my brotha from another motha.”
— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) August 8, 2014
Richmond went on to lead the Kings in scoring in each of his seven seasons in Sacramento, averaging 23.3 points per game. Owens averaged 15 points and eight rebounds in his first season in Golden State, but he lasted only three seasons there and the Dubs never advanced past the first round of the playoffs during that span. Richmond became unfairly labeled as a guy who put up big numbers on a losing team and Golden State didn’t win a playoff series again until the “We Believe” Warriors in 2006-07. Oh, what might have been.
Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway were already in their mid-20s when the deal was made, but they hadn’t been in the NBA for very long and by breaking up one of the most exciting trios in the association, Nelson doomed the Warriors in the long run. Richmond became known as one of the NBA’s purest shooters and racked up the following honors: six-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star MVP, three-time Second Team All-NBA, two-time Third Team All-NBA a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics and his No. 2 jersey being retired by the Kings.
I was lucky enough to watch a lot of Mitch Richmond in the 90’s and he was just so underrated. Well deserved to have him in the HOF. — Zach Harper (@talkhoops) August 8, 2014
Mitch Richmond is remembered for three things: his undeniable scoring ability, putting up big numbers on losing teams, and what might have been in Golden State had Nelson kept Run TMC together. Nelson later admitted he made a mistake with the trade, which makes sense since he traded a freaking future Hall of Famer for a guy who stayed with the team for three years and never panned out.
Richmond won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in his final season in 2001-02, playing a marginal role. It was one of only two postseason appearances for Richmond following his trade from the Warriors, which is often why is explosive scoring ability is often so underrated. The Kings trade devastated him, Hardaway and Mullin, but all three went on to have memorable Hall of Fame careers. And that makes it even more difficult to wonder what might have been if Run TMC had survived more than three seasons.