Almost two decades ago, three ball players from the Golden State Warriors captivated the NBA with their fast-paced, high-scoring and most importantly unselfish style of play. The trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mullin punished defenses and thrilled the Bay Area in their two seasons together. They would forever be known simply as Run TMC.
On the weekend of Mullin’s enshrinement, Run TMC reunited Friday afternoon at center court at the Hall of Fame with NBA TV’s Ahmad Rashad to talk about their time together and the lasting impact they have had on each other’s careers.
Before the lights went on and the cameras started rolling, Hardaway, Richmond and Mullin sat in their chairs rehashing old memories and laughing about their experiences in their short stint together in the Bay Area. Nineteen years have passed, but the three haven’t skipped a beat.
It’s fitting that their reunion centered around Mullin’s enshrinement weekend, seeing as he was the first cornerstone in the Warriors’ high-powered offense.
Mullin was taken in the first round by the Warriors in the 1985 NBA Draft, after he had completed a stellar career at St. John’s University where he was named Big East Player of the Year an unprecedented three times and led the Johnnies back to the Final Four.
But for Mullin, the transition from college to the NBA was challenging. A native of Brooklyn, he had spent his entire life in New York City. So when it came time to move to San Francisco, it was a tough adjustment for him to make.
During his first few seasons in the league, Mullin’s once renowned work ethic had faded, and before the start of the 1988-89 season, new head coach Don Nelson advised Mullin to seek alcohol rehabilitation.
“It took me a while to figure it out,” says Mullin, referring to his transition to the NBA.
But within the next two seasons, the Warriors would retool their backcourt by using their 1988 and 1989 first-round picks on Richmond and Hardaway, respectively.
In 1988, Richmond became the team’s starting shooting guard and recorded one of the best rookie campaigns in NBA history. That season, he would average 22.0 points per game on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. He was second on the team in scoring, behind a rejuvenated Mullin, who averaged 26.5 points a contest.
Still, Golden State was lacking at the point guard position. In 1989, they drafted Hardaway out of UTEP with the 14th overall pick.
“When we got together, that’s when my career took off,” says Mullin.
“I got there and I was in awe,” says Hardaway. “[Chris and Mitch] played the right way. When I got there, I fit right in.”
Nelson was willing to let Hardaway, Richmond and Mullin avoid using the plays and just run the ball up the floor – that is, only if they played unselfishly.
“Nellie gave us the freedom if we played the right way, as long as we shared the ball,” says Mullin. “We may have had a playbook, but we’re not running them, we’re running you.”
And that they did.
Hardaway proved to be the catalyst. Known for his famous “Killer Crossover,” he could get to the lane and find the open man with his great passing skills.
Richmond and Mullin played to Hardaway’s strengths as a point guard by always moving well without the ball. Richmond was a great open floor player and would fill the lanes, which led to easy buckets. And Mullin always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Hardaway joked that Mullin would grab the rebound and push it up to him, and the next thing he knew Mullin was all the way up the court.
In the 1990-91 season, the Warriors were second in the league in scoring and the Bay Area became basketball crazy. Run TMC averaged a combined 72.5 points per game. To put that into perspective, the “Big Three” for the 2010-11 Miami Heat only averaged a combined 70.9 points per game.
That season Golden State would upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, but ran into Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“For me it was the best time,” says Richmond.
The Warriors stole Game 2 of the series in Los Angeles, but dropped the following three to get bounced from the postseason. Little did they know that that series would be the last time Run TMC would play together.
Before the start of the 1991-92 season, Richmond was traded to the Sacramento Kings, where he would go on to be a six-time All-Star. But still the breakup for him was rough.
“It was really tough for me,” says Richmond. “It felt like a family for me.”
Mullin said that he was caught off guard and was shocked by the trade.
What made things worse was that Richmond’s first game for the Kings was on the road against Golden State.
Richmond, still in disbelief over the trade, walked to the wrong locker room when he got into the arena. He didn’t play that night, and the Kings were embarrassed by the Warriors 153-91.
“It was different,” says Hardaway. “It was tough times and it all started with Mitch being traded. It was the beginning of the end.”
Mullin, Hardaway and the Warriors would go on to win 55 games that season, but lose to the Seattle Supersonics in the first round of the playoffs. The remaining two would split in 1996, when Hardaway was traded to the Heat.
After the breakup, all three players went on to have successful careers. Hardaway and Mullin each came close to championships, but only Richmond was able to win a title with the Lakers in 2002, although his playing time was limited. Still their memories and friendships endure from their two seasons together.
“Our families ate together, vacationed together,” says Richmond.
“Every time we meet we learn something new about each other,” says Hardaway.
This reunion was to honor Mullin, the “C”, in Run TMC, but the newest member of the Hall of Fame pointed at his two former teammates and said, “If I can be a Hall of Famer, so can they.”
Only time will tell.
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