Certainly, any K-State fans reading this will be yelling “right on”, but for the average fan, most think of Richmond as a scorer, but a player that never made any meaningful difference to any team that might threaten to win a championship. So what if he scored points? Last Monday, the list was made public of those that are up for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Mitch Richmond’s name is once again on it and it’s time for him to be elected.
I can appreciate the perspective that only sees Richmond as a scorer on bad teams. If it weren’t for my obsessive nature where I dig things out from under rocks, I might have agreed with that opinion. If I weren’t a K-State fan and if Richmond hadn’t played around these parts, I probably wouldn’t go on a rant about it. But, all that means is that I had a reason to look into it, not that the information I’m presenting is biased. It’s factual… period. That’s kind of what I do.
Not to toot my own horn, and I apologize if I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but when Dream Team II was announced in 1994, it was a reasonable group of players. I really had no complaints. Although I felt Kevin Johnson (my all-time favorite player) deserved to be on it, I recognized that Isiah Thomas was a more worthy point guard. Thomas had been snubbed on Dream Team I and was a no-brainer for DT2. However, before the team was to play, Thomas suffered a career-ending injury on April 19th and would not be able to participate in the World Basketball Championships that summer.
I immediately went on a crusade to get KJ on the team. I wrote (pre email) everyone who was in anyway affiliated with the process giving them all the stats and all the reasons why nobody should be picked ahead of KJ to replace Thomas. After a couple weeks of that, I heard from several people – one of which was David Stern. His comment was “… Thanks for the letter concerning Kevin Johnson. Your letter did the trick!” On May 5th, KJ was selected as the replacement.
Getting Mitch Richmond into the Hall of Fame will be a lot harder than that, but it’s doable. It won’t be my efforts that do it, but perhaps enough people can rally behind him and use some of this information to that end.
COMING TOMORROW: Why Kevin Johnson should be in the Hall of Fame.
Mitch Richmond was one of those players in which you just couldn’t find anything wrong with his game. He was a team player and did what was in the best interest of winning. Unfortunately, as all NBA fans know, it’s tough to win at Golden State or Sacramento or Washington – the three losing franchises he was unfortunate enough to have played for.
Even so, in Richmond’s rookie season, the Warriors won 43 games – which was a 23 game improvement from the previous year! The only player that was added to the main rotation was Richmond. The +23 games from the season before was second only to Phoenix +27, led by none other than Kevin Johnson! The next biggest gain from 1988 to 1989 was Cleveland (+15).
Despite the improvement, no 2-guard can make a team a winner by himself unless he is named Michael Jordan and even Jordan had Pippen and Grant/Rodman. Kobe Bryant, when stripped of Shaquille O’Neal and before Pau Gasol joined the team only won 34, 45 and 42 games with the Lakers. Richmond’s three seasons in Golden State yielded 43, 37 and 44 wins. Not bad at all considering. FWIW, Golden State made the playoffs his first and third seasons sweeping Stockton and Malone’s Jazz in the first round his rookie year and defeating David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs 3-1 in his third season – also in the first round.
Richmond was then traded to Sacramento, but had absolutely no help! During his seven seasons with the Kings, he scored 12,070 points. The next most was Lionel Simmons (remember him?) with 4,412 and then Spud Webb (4,114). It was a one-man show. What hope did he have?
His next three seasons were in Washington. More of the same. Fortunately, Mitch got to play one season with real players. His final year was in 2002. He played with the Lakers. Los Angeles won the title that season and Mitch Richmond has a ring!
So, although he didn’t play with winners, he was a great player and I’m going to do my best to prove it.
Since his scoring was his bread and butter, let’s look at that. Richmond scored at least 21.9 ppg in each of his first 10 seasons. So what? Well, I’ll tell you what…
COOL FACTOID: In NBA history, there have only been six players that have scored at least 21.9 ppg in each of their first 10 seasons – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and… Mitch Richmond. Nope, not even Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, etc, etc, etc.
Jabbar, Jordan and Robertson were long ago inducted into the HOF. Iverson and O’Neal will be automatic selections once their five year waiting period expires. That leaves Richmond.
But, that’s just a cool factoid. Let’s get to the meat of the subject. Mitch Richmond scored 20,497 points in his NBA career. That ranks #36. You may not have any idea if that should, or should not, automatically qualify a person for the HOF.
Let’s break it down this way. Of the 35 players who have scored more NBA points than Richmond, 25 are already in the Hall of Fame. Of the 10 remaining players, all should be eventually: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, Gary Payton and Vince Carter. Of these players, only O’Neal (2011), Iverson (2010) and Payton (2007) have retired. The five-year requirement was up on Payton this year and he’s one of the bigger names that are up for selection to the HOF. He’s a lock.
I believe the ceremony will be in April, so there should be a couple months to mount a campaign for Richmond.
There are dozens and dozens of players in the HOF who have scored fewer points (many far fewer points) in the NBA than Richmond, but the fact is that Mitch retired in 2002 and has been denied five times already. Time is running out. The good news is that eventually sanity can prevail. Artis Gilmore is another name I ranted about on multiple occasions. He retired in 1988, but wasn’t selected to the HOF until 2011. So, it can happen years later. It just shouldn’t have to.
I’m the first to say points aren’t everything! Nevertheless, that was Richmond’s job. If he were a poor shooter, then you could simply say he was a gunner and shouldn’t be rewarded for throwing the ball up constantly. But, the fact is that he was an excellent shooter. If anything, he may have been too unselfish.
Of the 36 players with at least 20,459 points, Richmond has the third highest three-point FG% (.388). The only ones with a higher career 3PT% are two of the three greatest shooters in NBA history (along with Steve Nash). Ray Allen (.401) and Reggie Miller (.395) both have slightly better averages. Richmond is a better long range shooter than the other 33 players, including Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki.
The truth is Richmond was a great shooter and arguably in the top-10 of all time. His Effective FG% is only behind Miller, Allen and Jordan among the guards with 20,459+ points. In addition, Richmond was an 85% free throw shooter.
Any extended list that has to do with shooting or scoring is going to include Richmond’s name.
Mitch was also the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, a six-time All-Star – including MVP, five times All-NBA and a member of the gold-medal winning Dream Team III.
COOL FACTOID: Of the 38 players in NBA history that have qualified for the Hall of Fame and were All-NBA at least five times, 36 are in the HOF. The only two that are not are Mitch Richmond and Kevin Johnson!
Richmond was durable, played with class and he belongs in the Hall Of Fame. If not, he will continue to be the highest scoring eligible player not in the HOF and that’s not a trivia question for which you want to be the answer!
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