Hardaway believes Run TMC-led Warriors could have won title originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Upon getting the call in April informing him that he would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Warriors legend Tim Hardaway immediately began rejoicing with his family while crying tears of joy.
Shortly, afterward, he reached out to his NBA brothers from another.
That would be Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, who along with Hardaway formed the brief but dynamic union known as Run TMC.
“It took about, what, 15 minutes?” Hardaway told NBC Sports Bay Area this week, a few days before he enters the Hall on Saturday in Springfield, Mass. “I called them up together. I said, ‘I’m in, man. Fellas, I’m in!’ Chris was like, ‘Hell yeah! That’s right!’
“Mitch was like, ‘What you in?’ What you talkin’ about?’”
Once Hardaway clarified that he was joining his close friends in the Hall, Richmond responded with glee and a ‘F—k yeah’ on the overdue honor. Run TMC, after a nearly 31-year hiatus that began when Warriors coach/general manager Don Nelson traded Richmond in November 1991, is reunited.
Nelson has described the trade to broke up Run TMC – primarily Richmond to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Billy Owens – as one of his biggest mistakes. Hardaway shares in that regret.
“Nellie’s still regretting that,” Hardaway said. “It only lasted two years. If we would have stayed together for at least five or six years, we could have done something and went further in the playoffs. And probably could have won the whole thing.”
After finishing 37-45 in Hardaway’s rookie season, before the existence of Run TMC, the 1990-91 Warriors won 7 of their first nine games and never spent a night at or below .500. Their 44-38 record was the franchise’s best in nine years and good enough to snag the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
They built momentum in the first round, upsetting the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in four games, but lost the conference semifinals in five games to the bigger, brawnier Los Angeles Lakers, who reached the NBA Finals.
The Warriors were onto something. Home games at the Oakland Coliseum Arena were sold out for the second consecutive season. Nelson was immensely popular, and the high-scoring team was a joy to watch. The 1990-91 Warriors were porous on defense (23rd in defensive rating at 110.3)) but finished sixth in offensive rating (111.9).
They scored 125 more points 21 times, with a high of 162 points on opening night against the Nuggets in Denver. Mullin averaged 25.7 points per game, Richmond 23.9 and Hardaway 22.9 – and 9.7 assists.
“We had [opponents] that were legitimately scared to play against us,” Hardaway recalled. “We could catch fire at any time. We had basketball IQ. We were unselfish ... who knows if we would have stayed together six years?"
Nelson, seeking more size, made the trade that changed the entire dynamic, swapping Richmond, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, for Owens, a 6-foot-9 combo forward also capable running the offense.
The deal completed hours before opening night left Richmond heartbroken, as were Hardaway and Mullin. The three had built a tight bond, on the court and off, as they frequently were together in various places in the Bay Area.
That bond remained even as all three eventually were traded from the Warriors. And now they’re back together. Teammates with the Warriors, teammates in the Hall, teammates for life.