Mitch Richmond is shaping up to be the forgotten player from the 1990s NBA. Looking back at that decade, Richmond was 5th in total points scored (16,613) and 8th in points per game (23.0). All of the players ahead of him, and several immediately behind him are fondly remembered as legendary players of the era.
Make no mistake, Richmond was on their caliber. The unfortunate thing, perhaps, is that Richmond had no flair or pizzazz to his game. The aptly nicknamed Rock was just dependable and unwavering in what he did on the court.
Surely, Richmond was one of the great scorers in NBA history. His jump shot was devastatingly operational from anywhere on the court. Pull ups, mid-range, fade aways, three-pointers… they were all gravy for Richmond. The Rock, again such an apt nickname, was strong as a bull as well. He could set up on the low block and punish smaller and weaker shooting guards to get himself easy buckets.
(the above video is the only playoff game Richmond ever won as a Sacramento King)
Richmond’s stout frame also allowed him to be one of the premier defenders of shooting guards. He could just throw that big body of his into opponents, rough them up, and keep them off-balance. Watching him play defense is an excellent example of how occupying space can thwart an offensive players’ effectiveness.
Beyond his defense and scoring, Richmond was also one of the best passing two-guards in the 1990s. During the first 10 years of his career, Mitch averaged 3.9 APG. An assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings once had to acknowledge that Richmond was the first, second, and third option for the Kings.
And that’s the rub for Richmond’s career.
His first three seasons saw tremendous team success playing alongside Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway (the famed Run-TMC trio) in Golden State. That team made the second round of the playoffs twice, but a foolish trade by Don Nelson sent Richmond to Sacramento in return for Billy Owens. Golden State floundered and Richmond never again endured team success. He made six All-Star games and five All-NBA teams with the Kings, but played in just four playoff games while with that franchise.
After a harrowing three years with the Washington Wizards from 1999 to 2001, Richmond ended his career in 2002 with the Los Angeles Lakers. He hardly played for the Lakers but nonetheless received a championship. I guess that gesture was reimbursement by the basketball fates for all the toil Richmond endured in Sacramento and Washington.
Remember, though, that the Rock never wavered and always delivered his full measure for those mediocre Kings who would have been historically awful otherwise.
Seasons Played: 1989 – 2002
3x All-NBA 2nd Team (1994-’95, 1997), 2x All-NBA 3rd Team (1996, 1998)
Rookie of the Year (1989), All-Rookie 1st Team (1989)
All-Star Game MVP (1995), 6x All-Star (1993-’98)
NBA - 976 Games
21.0 PPG,3.5 APG, 3.9 RPG, 45.5% FG, 38.8% 3PT, 85.0% FT