SC Featured tells the story of Run TMC and how Tim Hardaway Sr., Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin changed the game in Golden State. (5:49)
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS legends Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond had an important announcement to make to the Chase Center crowd during the Warriors’ April 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Dub Nation, we received great news last weekend,” Mullin said. “Warrior legend Tim Hardaway is a Hall of Fame member for the Class of 2022.”
Hardaway, who was sitting courtside, stood and waved as he got a standing ovation.
It was a long time coming for Hardaway, who missed the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
But this time, he got better news. Hardaway, Mullin and Richmond — the core of the Warriors’ famous Run TMC era that spanned from 1989 to 1991 — would be reunited in the Hall of Fame.
“Still, every time it goes through my mind I get choked up,” Hardaway told ESPN. “We are a family. We’ve always been a family. … We cherish this. Words can’t describe how I feel for us three being in the Hall for something we did for just two years.”
Run TMC wouldn’t consider itself to be one of the best trios in NBA history, but it believes it had the potential to be. If given the chance, it could have built on the momentum of its second-round playoff exit at the end of the 1990-91 season and take the next step toward winning a championship.
While Mullin, Richmond and Hardaway might never know what could have been, they do know that those two seasons created a legacy that is still a fan favorite today.
“We only played two seasons together,” Mullin told ESPN. “It’s unique, but for us, as we look back, it’s sad in a way. Things happen and we made the best of the time we had together. For myself, it was the most fun, uplifting, energetic time I played. We had so much promise.
“So many years later, so many decades later when we get together, we always ponder, ‘What if?'”
They drafted Richmond, a 6-5 guard, in 1988, and that same year, Don Nelson — who came to the Warriors two years prior as the team’s vice president — became the general manager and head coach.
And finally, the Warriors drafted Hardaway, a six-foot point guard, in 1989.
“Tim really turned this franchise into a high-powered, high-energy offensive juggernaut,” Mullin said.
As Mullin, Hardaway and Richmond brought Nelson’s fast-paced “Nellie Ball” offense to life, they quickly became one of the NBA’s most popular trios. To set them apart, a Bay Area newspaper held a contest for fans to come up with a nickname for the trio.
Some entries were “The Ultimate Warriors,” “Three-mendius,” “The Dunk-and-go-nuts.” But none of them were right. It was Run TMC that stuck.
The nickname is a nod to the iconic hip-hop trio Run DMC, which rose to fame in the ’80s. The TMC in the trio’s nickname comes from the initials of each of the players’ first names. “Run” comes from the quick pace Nelson first implemented in Milwaukee before arriving at Golden State.
“You have to have great minds to innovate what you want to do with a team and make it fun and make it where other teams can’t guard them,” Hardaway said. “A lot of people didn’t understand you can play five guys and they can be 6-5 and under. We were doing that and people couldn’t keep up with us.”
The Warriors went 37-45 and missed the playoffs in the 1989-90 season, but they led the league in scoring average and pace of play, showing characteristics of the style that defined the Run TMC era.
In the first regular-season game the following season, the Warriors recorded the highest-scoring non-overtime game in league history, beating the Denver Nuggets 162-158. That season, they averaged 116.6 points per game, second-most in the NBA behind the Nuggets.
Golden State made it to the second round of the 1991 playoffs that season but lost in five games to the Lakers, who advanced to the NBA Finals.
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The Warriors could feel their franchise-building momentum growing, but it all came to a screeching halt one game into the 1991-92 season. Minutes after their season-opening win over the Nuggets, Richmond was traded to the Sacramento Kings for rookie holdout Billy Owens.
Owens was the No. 3 pick in the 1991 draft and his offensive versatility appeared to be a nice fit for Nelson’s system. That, and his 6-8 frame would bolster the Warriors’ size — something Nelson was under pressure to improve.
At first, Mullin and Hardaway thought Richmond was joking when he told them he wouldn’t be joining them on the team bus. But he wasn’t. While the team flew back to Oakland, Richmond was headed 90 miles northeast to Sacramento.
“That still hurts me to [this] day,” Richmond said. “To see [what we had] be separated, it was my first time being traded, first time going through a team not wanting me, it was a lot. … I wore that in my game. Every time I took the court, I was angry.”
Richmond was always a quiet guy and became even less talkative after he departed Golden State. It took him years to wash the bitter taste he had toward Nelson — who decided to trade him — out of his mouth.
Richmond blossomed into an All-Star in Sacramento, while the Hardaway-Mullin-Owens trio never flourished. Golden State made the playoffs twice in the next three years, losing in the first round both times — including the 1993-94 season, which Hardaway sat out because of a torn ACL.
Hardaway’s Warriors career ended after 422 games when he was traded to the Miami Heat in 1996. Mullin left in free agency a little more than a year later. The Run TMC era in Oakland was no longer.
BECAUSE OF THE trade, Richmond is usually the centerpiece of the “what if” conversations that surround Run TMC. Though all three players went on to have team success elsewhere, with Richmond winning a title with the Lakers in 2002, they never got a chance to capture a championship together — something that their modern-day Warriors counterparts have done four times now.
The trio sees similarities between themselves and Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — who are almost certain to follow Hardaway, Richmond and Mullin into the Hall of Fame when their careers are done. And while the current championship Warriors play an up-tempo style reminiscent of the Run TMC era, what really links these two eras is the way each member in each trio complements one another’s talents.
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“It’s one thing to like your teammate, respect your teammate, but when you have that in place and you need your teammate, that takes it to a whole other level,” Mullin said. “Draymond needs Steph and Klay’s shooting. Steph and Klay need Draymond’s passing and defense. Steph needs Klay’s size to guard. When you put that all together, you have the best trio of all time.”
For Run TMC, it was Hardaway’s one-on-one and passing skills paired with Richmond’s drives and Mullin’s shooting that made it so lethal.
And then there are the parallels of their personalities.
“Draymond is like me,” Hardaway said. “I’m the voice. I’m the s— starter that gets us going. Chris and Mitch are like Steph and Klay. … They just go out there and don’t say nothing. Just go out there and do the job.”
This season, the Warriors will don Run TMC-inspired jerseys, which Mullin proudly modeled during a team promotional event.
In their eyes, it’s an acknowledgment of how Run TMC shaped the culture throughout the organization, the current-day Warriors and the fans who remember the trio.
“It shows that they respect what we were out there doing,” Hardaway said. “They were excited to come out to games to see what we were doing, and we gave them excitement. And that’s what we loved to do.”
In their two seasons together, Run TMC never got close to the NBA Finals. It lost two more games than it won. Run TMC only won one playoff series. Yet, its impact on Golden State basketball can be viewed as transcendent. Capping off Hardaway’s enshrinement on Saturday, its standing among league lore and on-court performances has finally gotten all three players into the Hall of Fame.
“What’s really great about it is when we walk in all together and they see the three of us,” Hardaway said. “You should see their faces and expressions and how they look at us and talk about us, like y’all was some bad motherf—ers.”