Years later, Tim Hardaway is still waiting for the invitation to the reunion, optimistic but not blindly hopeful, believing but not convinced, patient but not without limits.
This is after the others have gathered, of course, and that’s the whole point. Chris Mullin — the C — made the Hall of Fame in 2011 and Mitch Richmond — M — in 2014. “Run MC” is in.
They need Hardaway — the T — to make it complete. Hardaway in some ways needs it to feel his career is complete, because he thinks he deserves it, period, but especially now that he’s the only one not at the party. His Golden State coach, Don Nelson, was inducted in 2012, one of his Warriors teammates, Sarunas Marciulionis, in 2014 for international accomplishments. Four members from the popular team.
But no Hardaway.
No Run TMC.
The Tim-Mitch-Chris convergence was one of the NBA thrill rides of the final dozen years of the 20th Century, three wings amped up on talent, fast breaks and a coach who urged them to ignore the speed limit. Hardaway was the point guard, Richmond the shooting guard and Mullin the small forward. The Warriors didn’t have the bigs or the defense to get far in the playoffs, or sometimes to get in the playoffs at all, so forcing the opponent into a track meet and hoping to step over bodies passed out from exhaustion it would have to be.
Often forgotten is that Run TMC lasted all of two seasons, just from Hardaway’s arrival as the 14th pick in the 1989 draft until Richmond was traded to the Kings in November 1991. What has never been forgotten is that the three were an electric mix, good enough to help propel two members — so far — into the Hall and popular enough to remain relevant through the decades.
Hardaway is 50 now, in his third season as a Pistons assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy and a Hall of Fame finalist again after being eliminated in the first round of voting in the North American committee in 2015 and ’16. That would be noteworthy progress no matter what, but with added importance in a year when Kansas coach Bill Self is the only lock from the North American, giving newcomer Tracy McGrady and carryovers Hardaway and Chris Webber a better opportunity as the biggest names among candidates with NBA and ABA ties. This could be Hardaway’s last best chance.
“I can’t get caught up in the moment and I’ve got to wait and see what happens,” he said. “I thought I was going to get the call, that I was going to go in with Mitch and Alonzo Mourning. At that particular time it was disappointing. Right now, I can’t get caught up, can’t get my hopes up too high. Just wait until it happens. You know what it is? It’s just like a playoff game. Your first playoff game. Or the playoffs start or the beginning of the season, where you’re anticipating you’re going to have a good season or you’re anticipating you’re going to have a good playoff game and it doesn’t work out for you. You’ve just got to wait and see when it presents itself and then go from there. That’s the approach I’m taking with it.”
The 2014 election hurt because it wouldn’t have just been entering the Hall. It would have been entering with Richmond, Mourning and Marciulionis, former teammates and current friends. That would have been beyond perfect after all the memories together and the months of pushing each other’s credentials for enshrinement. No one talked a better pro-Richmond campaign than Hardaway — unless it was Mullin. And the same in return.
Hardaway headed into the announcement thinking he would make it, then fell short. He was stung. The hurt had mostly passed by the time he went to the induction ceremony in Springfield, Mass., to support friends, only to be in the audience and have his mind wander to images of how great the party really could have been if one more had made it on stage. Hardaway got to peek through the windows, and that’s it.
Now comes another serious bid as the announcement of the Class of 2017 as part of the Final Four approaches, after two years of trying to learn not to worry about being cut in the first round of voting and after 13 seasons, including four in a row at 20 points or more, five All-Star games and an Olympic gold. (A 14th season would be lost to a knee injury.) Now comes another chance for a Run TMC reunion.
It’s so close.
“That’d be some great news, the group getting back together,” the T said. “Yes, it’s harder to wonder and think if you’ll ever make it and your friends are in there and your teammates are in there, your coach is in there and you’re right there at the doorstep. You’re always wondering if you’re going to get there. You’ve got to be positive. My friends, they’re positive. My family, they’re positive. That’s all you can have. Everybody’s being positive. My team here (in Detroit). The coaching staff. Stan. Everybody’s positive. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“It would be great. It would be great. All three of us want it as much as anyone wants it. We all talk about it. We text about it. We all say it’d be wonderful to get in and we could have a reunion and we could have fun with it again. We’ll see. That’s all I can say. We’ll see. During the All-Star weekend you hear you’re a finalist, but now you really start to think about it because the NCAA’s are starting…. I don’t want to get anxious. That’s why you’ve just to calm yourself down and just hope for the best.”
Mullin and Richmond wait, with Nelson, Marciulionis, Mourning and many others close by. The reunion a little more than a quarter-century in the making waits. Most of all Hardaway waits, hoping the disappointments have passed and that this is finally his time, and their time.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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