When we look back at the record books of the modern NBA era, the 1999 season will have an asterisk. That year the league played a shortened season of 50 games due to a lockout.
The 1998-1999 season would also coincidentally mark the end of one the greatest eras in basketball: the 1990s. That winter’s apocalyptic work stoppage would serve as a bad omen for many of the era’s greats and usher in a new crop of NBA talent. Remember, too, that once the NBA resumed play, teams were playing nearly every other night to get in as many games as possible – never a good thing for aging players’ knees, ankles and backs.
This list is not meant for players who were getting too old by ’99, but rather for guys who came back out of shape, unfocused, or generally apathetic to the idea of playing basketball.
Here is a list of the top 5 players most affected by the 1999 lockout:
5. Mitch Richmond
When Richmond came into the league, he was dubbed as one of the great pure shooters in the league and someone who could potentially compete with MJ as the best scorer around.
For his first three years in Golden State, he upheld that reputation, playing alongside Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin in the fast-paced attack known as RUN TMC. During his eight-year stint with the Sacramento Kings, he averaged right around 23 points per game and made every Western Conference All-Star team from 1993 to 1998. However, in May 1998, just before the lockout took effect, Richmond was traded, along with Otis Thorpe to the Washington Wizards for Chris Webber, a move that catapulted the Kings to the top of the West.
Though Mitch played in all 50 games of the shortened season, the 33-year-old’s scoring average would dip down to 19 points per game and would keep dropping over the last three years of his career, and he never made another All-Star team again.
Some redemption for Richmond would come in 2002, when he would win a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.
4. Larry Johnson
Make no mistake about it, LJ was one of the most exciting and important players in the 1999 playoffs, playing a key role on the Knicks’ run to the NBA Finals. Who can forget the four-point play?
Once he made the move to the Knicks, he never quite regained the productivity he had with the Charlotte Hornets. His field goal percentage and points per game each took a tumble from 1998 to 1999, and it wasn’t because the Monstars stole his talent in Space Jam. (It was actually because of chronic back problems.)
Despite being a prominent force during the Knicks’ exciting Eastern Conference championship run, he’d make controversial headlines and anger Bill Walton when he equated the New York Knicks to a “band of rebellious slaves,” and say that he and Spurs’ guard Avery Johnson were “from the same slave plantation.” Larry Johnson, everybody!