With four Warriors icons (Mitch Richmond, Sarunas Marciulionis, Alvin Attles, and Guy Rodgers) entering the Naismith Hall of Fame today, I thought it would be worthwhile to do some research and revisit one of the most fun teams in NBA history.
Before the Splash Brothers, before “We Believe,” there existed a dynamic high-scoring trio that many younger Warrior fans (myself included) did not have the pleasure of witnessing. With the power of YouTube and the Internet, I was able to discover what made this Warriors team so memorable.
For two seasons, the trio known as Run TMC dazzled the league with a ruthless run-and-gun offense. Regardless of post-season success — or lack thereof — Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin, under the guidance of head coach Don Nelson, enamored audiences with their beautiful display of unselfishness on the court. Because each member was a gifted scorer in his own right, Nelson gave the talented trio almost full freedom to do as they pleased on the court, making for exciting, high-scoring basketball:
The origins of the trio began when the Warriors selected Chris Mullin with the 7th overall pick in the 1985 draft.
Mullin was a renowned gym-rat out of St. John’s, and had already earned a series of accolades including an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and the Wooden Award in 1985. With a smooth jumper in his arsenal, the deadly lefty averaged 14 points as a rookie while shooting an efficient 46% from the field. At 6’7″, Mullin was not only an effective shooter, but also a great passer and creative finisher in transition. He was credited by his teammates as always being the first one down the floor. The Warriors lost 52 games during Mullin’s rookie season.
While he would reach the playoffs under George Karl the next year, he would not get his life together until Nelson took the helm in 1998. Struggling to transition from life in Brooklyn to the Bay Area, Mullin underwent alcohol rehabilitation per Nelson’s instructions. Mullin would eventually regain his fiery work ethic during the 1988-1989 season, when the Warriors selected Mitch Richmond with the fifth pick out of Kansas State University.
The Warriors offense was rejuvenated when 6’5″ shooting guard Mitch Richmond was added to the squad in 1988.
Richmond, nicknamed “The Rock,” was known for his his scoring arsenal, including the ability to take the ball to the hole, post up, and knock down jumpers. Richmond was also a very capable defensive player (matching up with players like Michael Jordan later in his career). During his marvelous rookie campaign, Richmond averaged 22 points per game while pulling down almost six rebounds per contest. A renewed Mullin would average 26 points, 5.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists that season as well. Richmond and Mullin formed the highest-scoring backcourt in the NBA that season, averaging 48.6 points per game. The Warriors went on to the postseason, where they swept the Utah Jazz in the first round, but eventually fell to the Phoenix Suns in the semifinals. In eight games, Richmond managed to average 20 points per game while Mullin further elevated his own play with an average of 29.4 points while shooting 54% from the field. The following season, the duo would gain another dear friend and teammate to help complete one of the most memorable backcourts in Warriors (and NBA) history.
Because the team lacked a strong point guard, Tim Hardaway out of UTEP was the missing piece the Warriors needed.
While relatively small at 6’0″, Hardaway had the tremendous ability to blow by anyone using his patented “killer crossover” and the famous UTEP two-step (look up these moves on YouTube). With slick handles, speed, strength and finishing ability, Hardaway could completely fake out a defender one way and slash to the rim the next moment.
Hardaway’s strong passing skills also helped maximize Richmond and Mullin’s talents while they moved off-ball. All three were capable of initiating the fast break, shooting the j, and finishing, causing defenses to remain guessing. The Warriors would ultimately fall short of the playoffs during the 1989-1990 season with a 37-45 record; however, they would finish first in the league in scoring, averaging an insane 116 points per game.
The trio was properly dubbed Run TMC after the popular hip-hop group Run DMC. The following season, the Bay Area and the rest of the league witnessed what Golden State was capable of on the offensive end. Thanks to Nelson’s “Nellie Ball,” the Warriors were able to out run and outscore their opponents due to their speed and athleticism.
During the 1990 season opener, the Warriors battled the Denver Nuggets (at the time called Enver Nuggets because of their lack of “D”) in what would result in the most combined points in NBA regulation at 320:
Though the Warriors had plenty of defensive shortcomings, their explosive style put them at a 44-38 record. Run TMC averaged 72.5 points per game. As the seventh seed, the Warriors were able to upset the David Robinson-led San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. They would then face the veteran Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The Warriors were unable to defeat the Lakers who possessed playoff savvy, poise and experience. They managed to steal Game 2 in L.A. but dropped the following three games despite keeping it close.
Unfortunately, the world only saw Run TMC play together for two seasons. To Richmond’s surprise, he was traded the next season in exchange for the rights to Billy Owens, as Nelson felt backup shooting guard Sarunas Marciulionis was capable of taking his spot.
While each member of Run TMC was able to have fairly successful NBA careers after disbanding, the three have continuously expressed their joy and passion for the game when reminiscing about their two seasons together in Golden State. The three would eventually become franchise faces: Richmond for the Kings, Hardaway for the Heat, and Mullin for the Warriors. The Run TMC-led Warriors teams eventually produced three Hall of Famers in Richmond, Mullin and Marciulionis but most importantly they left great memories for players and fans alike.
I for one, wish I was alive to witness this.