Wednesday, 10 August 2011
MULLIN' IT OVER
A real Golden State Warrior.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
(Part of our special 'HALL OF FAME' week)
The mid to late eighties may have been dominated by Larry and Magic, while the nighties may have been Michael's game but another fellow member of the 'dream team' and soon to be Naismith Hall Of Fame was another important icon. A rare figure that was dominant in two of the leagues most groundbreaking and popular decades. With a buzz cut, come high top fade, that would have been looked good on the Fresh Prince this guy looked more like a character out of a family sitcom, but check your old V.T.'s on television or your newspaper clippings because Chris Mullin was a star.
This 6, 7, number 17 came into the league 26 years ago as the 7th pick in the '85 draft to average 18.2 points and collect 1,530 steals during his tenure in the league. What a career this kid had coming out of Brooklyn, New York to be a hero in California, his country and around the world like Captain America. Shielding critical judgement, Mullin wore his star status proud as he ruled in Golden State, the '92 Olympics in Barcelona and as a veteran with the Indiana Pacers. Every time he ran down the corridor and on to the court, he went hard with his work. No wonder he's ready for the hall certification.
This shooting guard come small forward was so versatile that he saw five All-Star games, a couple of All-NBA teams, two pieces of gold and the legendary 'John R. Wooden Award' which he garnered in his college freshman/NBA rookie year. Before all that however he received the 'USBWA College Player of the Year' distinction after a stellar final year at St. Johns. He also collected the 'Big East Men's Basketball Player of the Year' for each of his three college years, even making the amateur USA team if that wasn't already enough.
Mullin was always going to be big as he idolised Larry Bird growing up and wore the number 17 in fellow Celtics legend John Havlicek's honour. Mullin was more than the next 'great white hype' b.s. religiously studying the games of legendary Knick guards Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe for his final pre-draft Basketball exam in the finals of the NCAA, all whilst playing with N.Y.'s finest in the Bronx and Harlem, where his game knowed no discrimination or dismissal. His game was part serious strength, part sublime shot with some sensational smarts. With that green-collar Celtic hard work and Boston Irish pride, mixed with the hometown New York mind and skill set mixed together for the perfect formula. Chris became a potent player of some power.
After teaming up with the magnificent Mario Elie in high school, Mullin locked it down for Power Memorial Academy before furthering his impact and legacy at Catholic Xaverian High School of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where he showed the all boys school who the man was. As Chris Mullin joined St John's he became the freshest man averaging 16.6 per and setting scoring records for the alumni. Before his final year in college and draft declaration Mullin handled even more pressure like a pro as he won his first gold medal with the USA Olympic team in Los Angeles, a year after he won gold in the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas. He really was that good. Then in his freshman year he led his college campus to the formidable Final Four and sure the bic haired warrior didn't cut down any nets but it sure was a close shave, plus the young man had breezed through so many worlwide achievements before he even hit the draft.
Then as the big leagues called Mullin was well received as ge remained connected with his renowned all-round game as he continued to humbly engage himself with his machine like, crazy awesome work ethic. Mullin fitted into any role given to him like a Gary Payton as he showed he was the consummate, selfless team-player. Even when he was picked as a spot up shooter next to Eric "Sleepy" Floyd he just hit everything he was asked of before the team and the world woke up to his talent. Then after some years of struggle (if you can call 20.2 points per game a struggle), alcoholism, injury and losses to eventual champions like the Lakers something special happened. Don Nelson happened, time in rehab and the weight room happened, and Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway happened. Before 'the rock' and Timmy became stars of their own in Sacramento and Miami respectively they sounded so good with Mullin as Run-TMC, the freshest classic thing seen since bowler hats, leather jackets and Adidas with no laces. It was just like that.
Plus even with a crossing over point revolution and the most underrated star of the nighties Chris still held his own cementing his own legend as a league Warrior. As he came out to play in his fifth campaign he averaged 25 plus points a game for five straight seasons, being the first man to do that in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain. Now how's that for a legacy? Mullin was standing on the stilts of legends.
Then after some powerful playoff runs and that second gold overseas with 'the dream' Mullin and the Warriors again saw change approaching the mid-decade. They lost the 'M' of their 'TMC' trio and gained another 'C' and Chris as Mitch Richmond was traded and Chris Webber was brought in on draft day after his own legendary ensemble ('the fab five') at college as a Spartan in Michigan. Billy Owens was what Golden State received in return for Mitch 'The Rock' Richmond as his strength supplemented the wear and tear that begun to take it's toll on Mullin.
Chris paid the price with time on the pine, but he still ensured to cash in on his time on the floor as he always afforded his best effort. You could always take that to the bank. Still as Richmond was traded it signalled the end of an era which also featured Nelson's resignation after he couldn't work with Webber and Mullin's part replacement by slashing, choking swingman Latrell Sprewell.
After all Mullin did for his franchise he was traded in the 96/97 season for a journeyman and a sophomore (OK the sophomore was impressive centre Erik Dampier but still). Keeping up pace in Indiana Mullin was still a sensational star player before becoming a valuable veteran on the East Coast. Mullin was also coached by his idol Larry Bird and even after all the time and experience, Coach Legend still proved to be a memorable mentor. After a 11.3 point of a season Bird and Mullin lost again to Jordan and the eventual champion Chicago, but just like every other year against Mike, they picked themselves up and carried on together in a wonderful new alliance.
As Mullin's playing career began to wilt (and we're not talking about another Chamberlain comparison) he was replaced by the blooming Jalen Rose but now his mentoring and locker room presence was crucial. Indiana even reached the NBA Finals in the dawn of the new millennium but Chris and his three appearances with his team lost again to the Lakers.
Still as Chris Mullin retired he left the game with more then the legacy of being another top star of the nighties who didn't shine as bright as Mike because of the lack of bling from no rings. He still left as a winner who achieved so much on many different levels on the court. This before his time player was world-wide before his prime and had so much potential throughout his career that made good on all his promise. This is why he's guaranteed a walk down the Hall. This John Wooden award winner helped reinvent the sport with his all round play. He's worthy of accreditation and that's Naismith's word.