Posted Aug 5, 2014 1:04 PM
What a scene it will be. A Friday night in Springfield, Mass., a formal event in a stately 101-year-old building, Mitch Richmond scheduled to be on stage with Chris Mullin and Ralph Sampson, his presenters, and only Chris Mullin and Ralph Sampson, when suddenly hundreds of thousands of people flood down the aisles and through side doors to join them front and center.
No way Richmond goes into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 8 with only family, close friends and peers in attendance. All Sacramento will be there with him. In the western Massachusetts town, about 25 miles from Hartford, Conn., for the buildup. On stage that night for the induction ceremony. Wearing purple. Making him the first person to ever have an acceptance speech drowned out by cowbells.
Richmond is just like good friend Sarunas Marciulionis, Alonzo Mourning, David Stern and the six others in the Class of 2014 entering the Hall as the ultimate basketball lifetime achievement award, except that he is nothing like the others. He is the only inductee with NBA connections there on behalf of a city and as the reason to celebrate a team unaccustomed to the event.
Lithuania has a rich basketball tradition even apart from Marciulionis, the Heat have known championships in recent years and, besides, have the whole Miami thing, and Stern doesn't need an affiliation as one of the towering figures in league history. The Kings, though. Sacramento, though.
Richmond going into the Hall is partial payback for all the years of fans backing a team that mostly lived in the lottery, for the way locals considered the team part of the fabric of the community in the same way San Antonio and Portland do, except with a lot fewer wins. Plus, he isn't just a special someone from their past. The Rock, as he was known during 14 seasons with four teams, is a King again, a scout and advisor to general manager Pete D'Alessandro as well as a minority owner who got a share at what is believed to be a discounted rate to ensure the return of one of the popular players in team history.
Richmond deserves this honor. But Sacramento needs it.
"There's such a pride," said D'Alessandro, a Richmond friend for years. "When he goes in, it's the city of Sacramento going in. That's really what's happening here."
The most fun Richmond had as a pro was his three seasons with the Warriors as the middle member of Run TMC with Tim Hardaway (the T) and Mullin (the C), and he won his only championship with the Lakers in 2002, but he is most identified as a King. That's where he was named an All-Star six years in a row in the 1990s in what would unknowingly become one of the greatest selling point for his Hall candidacy, that coaches kept picking Richmond for the midseason showcase. They knew he was that good even though his team was that bad.
Now it is 2014 and he got a question about what it all means in the modern day.
"Your induction comes at a time...."
Richmond didn't wait for the sentence to finish.
"Where they need me," he jumped in.
"I just hope I represented them right," Richmond said. "I'm just glad that I'm not going in there by myself, because the city of Sacramento is going in there with me. I really feel that.
"For me, I think I'm representing fans that come out every night and supported a team when they wasn't that good and supported the city. Still I'm tied to the Sacramento Kings. When they were trying to move the team to Seattle, I found myself 10 years later back in Sacramento trying to help the Kings stay in Sacramento. I'm tied to 'em. I'm just happy for the people of Sacramento and the city of Sacramento that they can say that they have a Hall of Famer."
That makes it good timing all around. He is part of the same class as Marciulionis, a teammate with the Warriors and Kings. He is part of the same festivities that include former Golden State coach and executive Al Attles, a mentor when Richmond broke into the league in Oakland, receiving the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. And, Richmond is a South Florida guy, from Fort Lauderdale, which makes the enshrinement more special for the region as a native son and former Heat center Mourning both being inducted.
There is at least that familiarity for the 1989 Rookie of the Year and 1995 All-Star game MVP, another person with an Oakland background going in, one of several people inducted with Heat ties in recent years with more to follow once members of the group that won back-to-back titles begin to retire. The part about the Kings and Sacramento, that's rare. That is why this is about more than Richmond. That's why the stage will be so crowded.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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