Wednesday, 4 September 2013


M Rocks Life.


It's the twilight of the sweeping 2002 NBA Finals and we're in New Jersey with just seconds on the clock. Phil Jackson calls on a Jordanesque player in Lakers purple and runs a play. The guys even wearing number 23, as he fades away and ices the last shot of the game beautifully and poignantly. The thing is, the game and series and championship was already decided minutes and substitutes ago and that guy with the fade...he 'aint Kobe. "Is this how you thought you'd spend your last season with the Lakers" a reporter for SLAM magazine asks. "Nah" replies the shaking head of former All-Star and 90's swingman legend Mitch Richmond. "Nah"!

This last shot of the Lakers game and Mitch Richmond's NBA career represents so much more than the frustration of injury, retirement ageing or DNP-CD's. It also represents the worthy championship credit of a veteran presence who solidified the bench and provided lessons from a legend to the raw talent and youth of the Lakers potential rich roster. Mitch Richmond finally chased down his ring like the last pea on the plate and as the fork was put in his career, it was a ring worthy of a man that deserved it not only for his classic career, but his lasting impression in his final fling with top flight hoops in Hollywood. Besides he was certainly a slam dunk upgrade from the previous years lost talent of J.R. Rider. Like Aaron McKie, Jim Jackson and other big names and scorers who the Lakers scooped up, but missed out on the big-time, it was more than just the numbers or the minutes and this why Mitch Richmond like others was so much more. His name itself was so much more than all the numbers and teams stitched on to his sweat soaked, hard worked and truly earned jerseys.

That's what it takes to make a legend and one of the greatest players ever in this league, even if some of your prime or playing time is overshadowed by Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant...but hey it doesn't get any better than that. That's why Mitch was one of the best. That's why the 6,5, Rich weighing in at 215 pounds averaged 21 points and 3 and a half assists was a fifth pick pedigree in the first round of the '88 draft. The highest scoring player ever not named to the Naismith Hall Of Fame needs an election day this time next year. He's a six time All-Star as well as a Gold and Bronze medal Olympian from Seoul, Korea to Atlanta, America and a the king of Sacramento Kings, with his number 2 jersey retired by the purple and black and those classic half and half throwbacks. Simply put 'The Rock', Mitch Richmond was gifted with the rock of basketball. The Rock wrestled his way through opponents and teams on a muscled up pain and gain career which saw his fast and furious style motor on to a championship belt, cementing him as one of the storied 90's golden era leagues heavyweights. No's was a knockout.

Back when video game renditions of players where just pixilated promises of future realism, the boxer built Richmond was the real deal like Holyfield. The NBA LIVE 97 cover star was more than a video gamers favourite player option when he was in the real game like EA Sports was electronically. Hardwoods classics was Mitchell Richmond's art like Mitchell & Ness. You can bet his throwback will be a collectors item to the highest bidder as gavels drop and knock in the future. Just take your pick. From Boyd Anderson high of the Lauderdale Lakes, Florida to the collegiate halls of Moberly Area CC and Kansas State University this consensus NCAA All-American was a basketball education to anyone he faced. The rock was rolling like green bottled beer, when he was with Golden State in California as the number 2 in his own big three, RUN T.M.C. Like the 80's hip-hop legends DMC, these hoop stars where the NBA Jam Masters and could really run. All they needed was all black and bowler hats to go with those Adidas sneakers as they dribbled this way to prosperity.

These kings of the rock where tougher than leather as these Warriors aligned for Gold Coast War. The tricky crossover king Tim Hardaway the beastie buzz of Chris Mullin and 'The Rock' himself Mitch Richmond. These legends created a cult Michigan fab five like legacy across the other side of that bridge as the Golden State almost found their gate to the NBA's promised land. From Alcatraz lock down D, to escape artist offensive play, these guys where kings of the rock years before Red Bull pounded the concrete of prisons. You can drink to that. This trio gave the Oakland team, the NBA and notions of the big-three teams wings. The only way you could clip these guys was by keeping newspaper records for your recollection, because even without a championship they are still certified in hardwood history and basketball purists legend. Classic like the old G.S.W jerseys they rose like cable cars in 'The City'. From Mullin's three's to Hardaway's handles and Mitch's all round game. Legendary coach Don Nelson dry erased a set of players that inked their reputations on the NBA like the hoops dedicated tattoo's on their arm...permanently.

Still, as the slasher Richmond was traded to Sacramento his career took no cut. It was all action like Bobby Jackson as the California king laid it all down like a bed for seven stellar seasons. The Rock pounded the hardwood floor of the Arco Arena until every cowbell ringed in the house in his name. Will Ferrell would be proud at how this great guard could make any night live like Saturday. On the throne for the Kings Richmond was seen as one of the purest shooters by the purists, all whilst being a Western Conference All-Star regular and MVP of that game in Phoenix. He also made 'Dream Team III' for Olympic gold in the ATL. Before his post alter-ego Chris Webber was traded for him, Mitch was considered the first star for a Sacramento team established and expanded in 1985 (three years before Mitch's NBA career was born), and one that probably won't see 2015...unless they look from Seattle's space-needle that is.

The sonic speed slasher was spelled to the Washington Wizard for the tricks of a Chris Webber trade and as C-Webb, Vlade, Peja and co almost took the Lakers to task, Rich was afforded his own jobs years before joining L.A. himself and earning his gold. The cousin of NFL player Lardarius Webb still had a great NBA career before playing in the associations Superbowl. The gridiron determination of this passion player took him through some struggles in D.C. and he even got to play with the greatest ever, Michael Jordan before he played with Kobe and of course Shaq for the Phil Jackson three-peat Lakers show. As Mitch dribbled out his closing game and career there was always going to be more after the buzzer sounded. Coaching and analysis can wait because now in retirement M Rock's life has so much more to it.

As a matter of fact Google 'M Rock Life' and you'll see something that is bigger than the game and goes beyond simple fame and celebrity. Mitch's new opponent is bullying and his foundation 'M Rock Life' looks set to lay the groundwork in helping young people who suffer this cruel affliction before it becomes too late. Wrestling with the problem head on Rock Richmond's charity is an organised noise for those who have suffered in silence for too long. Mitch is the sincere spokesman for something that is giving the youth and all those affected a voice. This month sees a celebrity all-star game with NBA and music talent lending a hand to raising awareness. Still, when September ends, Richmond and 'M Rock Life' will wake up more sleeping on an issue that needs more inspiration and influence. Next September the man whose taking it to the school halls needs his own place in NBA's most storied corridor. More than his jersey to the rafters, Mitch needs a hand raised or a glass to toast to his success and strength...just no Dwyane Johnson eyebrows. Even through the struggles of a hard-place 'The Rock' has always prevailed, from his concrete play to his set in stone dedication. Mitch Richmond is still cooking. You thought he was done..."nah"!

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