Richmond, Mitch 1965–
Mitch Richmond 1965–
Professional basketball player
In December of 1995, Sports Illustrated ran a feature about Mitch Richmond, in which he was described as an expert basketball impressionist. He has the ability, according to the article, to mimic the style and trademark moves of virtually any NBA player. Although he has never been able to attract the media spotlight, one thing is certain: Mitch Richmond is an extremely talented basketball player.
Mitchell James Richmond was born on June 30, 1965 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Growing up in Ft. Lauderdale, his best friend was another native Floridian destined for sports stardom, wide receiver Michael Irvin of the Dallas Cowboys. Irvin, renowned for his talkative nature, was a perfect foil for the more reserved Richmond. “If you wanted to get in a word when you were with Mike, you had to start early,” Richmond was quoted as saying in Sports Illustrated. Among Richmond’s other friends are NFL standouts Benny and Brian Blades and Brett Perriman.
Richmond’s hometown pals called him Smooth, but his road to the NBA was rocky. His attended three different high schools in the Ft. Lauderdale area. After failing an algebra course during his senior year, he almost did not graduate. Realizing that his basketball future was at stake—and at the not-very-subtle urging of his mother, Ernell—Richmond attended summer school and managed to earn his high school diploma. Richmond’s next stop was Moberly Area Junior College in central Missouri. Despite intense homesickness, Richmond averaged 13.1 points per game and led the Greyhounds to a two-year record of 69 wins and 9 losses. While he was a student at Moberly, Richmond became close friends with coach Dana Altman, who advised him to beef up both his body and his academic skills. Following Altman’s advice, Richmond worked hard in both the weight room and the classroom. On the court, he perfected his outside shooting and rebounding skills. Richmond’s grades eventually improved enough for him to secure a transfer to Kansas State University.
At Kansas State, Richmond’s game blossomed offensively. As Hank Hersch of Sports Illustrated remarked, “Richmond received the ball and orders to create an offense with it.” Playing shooting guard instead of the
At a Glance…
Born Mitchell James Richmond June 30, 1965 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL; mother: Ernell O’Neill; married Juli Richmond; children: Phillip and Jerin. Education: Kansas State University, B.A.
Career: Professional basketball player, Golden State Warriors, 1988-91; Sacramento Kings, 1991-98; Washington Wizards, 1998-.
Awards: NBA Rookie of the Year, 1989; member NBA All-Star Team, 1993-97.
Addresses: Office —Washington Wizards, MCI Center, 601 F St. NW, Washington D.C. 20071.
forward position he had played earlier in his career, Richmond averaged 20.7 points per game. He was at his best at NCAA tournament time, averaging 26.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over two seasons. In his senior season, Kansas State advanced to the Final Eight in the NCAA tournament and Richmond broke the school’s single-season scoring record. He was also named a Second-Team All-American, and won a bronze medal as a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team. To the delight of his mother, Richmond graduated from Kansas State with a B.A. in social science.
Richmond was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA draft and was the fifth pick overall. Warriors coach Don Nelson made Richmond a starter during his rookie season. He responded by scoring 22 points per game and averaging 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. Those numbers were good enough to earn Richmond Rookie of the Year honors for the 1988-89 season, and he was the only player unanimously named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Richmond’s all-around play was praised by coaches, teammates, and opponents alike. “Mitch is doing just about everything I’ve asked of him,” Nelson was quoted as saying in a 1989 Sports Illustrated article. “I need him to be dominant, but in the flow of the team, and he’s doing that.”
The next season, Richmond continued to shine. He scored 22.1 points per game, and his 4.6 rebounds per game average was best among all NBA guards. He was also named Warriors co-captain along with teammate Chris Mullin. Richmond improved his game once again during the 1990-91 season. He averaged 23.9 points per game, and combined with Mullin and Tim Hardaway to form “Run TMC” (for Tim, Mitch, Chris), one of the most explosive offensive trios in the NBA.
On the night before the 1991 season opener, the Warriors traded Richmond and center Les Jepsen to the Sacramento Kings for Billy Owens. In an instant, Richmond went from being a valued member of a respectable team to being the only respectable member of an awful team. The adjustment was not an easy one for Richmond. The Kings were not only a perennial loser, but they were also a small-market team. This meant that a star player like Richmond would only receive a fraction of the attention—and the accompanying endorsement money—that a player in a major market like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago received.
Richmond gradually came to terms with his new situation, and continued to thrive as a player. He finished ninth in the league in scoring in 1991-92, and scored 30 or more points per game a dozen times during the season. The following season, Richmond was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game, becoming the first Sacramento player to be so honored. In a game two days after the announcement, he suffered a broken thumb. The injury forced Richmond to miss both the All-Star Game and the rest of season.
Richmond more than made up for that disappointment during the 1993-94 campaign. He averaged 23.4 points per game during the season, the seventh best average in the league, and was selected to start in the All-Star Game. He performed even better during the 1994-95 season, when he was named Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game, turning in a 23-point performance in only 22 minutes of play. Despite Richmond’s individual success, however, the Kings continued their losing ways. Sacramento won 39 games, which marked the franchise’s best season since it moved from Kansas City in 1985. However, the Kings still failed to qualify for the playoffs. The 1995-96 season brought Richmond more success. His 23.1 points per game average was among the NBA’s best for guards, and he was named to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year. Richmond also earned a gold medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic squad, which was known as the “Dream Team.”
After an incredible 1996-97 season, in which he averaged nearly 26 points per game, Richmond desired a change of scenery. At the age of 31, it was clear that he was entering the latter stages of his career. He also tired of playing for a perennial doormat like Sacramento and clamored for a trade to a team that had a realistic chance of making the playoffs. As the NBA’s 1998 winter trade deadline approached, a number of deals for Richmond were proposed. Although a few of the deals were nearly completed, they all eventually fell through.
Richmond’s wish was finally granted in May of 1998, when he was traded to the Washington Wizards for their talented, but troubled, star forward Chris Webber. Before he had a chance to enjoy the change of scenery, however, a labor squabble resulting in a lockout of players by team owners threw the 1998-99 season into question. Regardless of the outcome of the dispute, Richmond stands to benefit from the greater media exposure that players in major cities like Washington, D.C. inevitably receive.
New York Times, February 13, 1995, p. C10; February 26, 1997, p. B11; November 10, 1997, p. C7.
Sporting News, May 22, 1989, p. 39; January 18, 1993, p. 33; January 15, 1996, p. 37.
Sports Illustrated, February 6, 1989, p. 20; March 9, 1998, p. 100; May 25, 1998, p. 98.
Time, December 18, 1995, p. 73.
Washington Post, May 15, 1998, p. A1.
—Robert R. Jacobson
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