FORT LAUDERDALE IS PROUD OF MITCH
By Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel
4:43 p.m. EDT, April 7, 2014
This just as easily could have been a football story, and Monday might instead have been about Canton instead of Springfield for Mitch Richmond.
Because for all the Boyd Anderson High School graduate and Fort Lauderdale native accomplished during his NBA career, a career that culminated with Monday's formal announcement of his selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, even now he acknowledges football "was my first love."
In conjunction with Monday's selection, Richmond offered his football back story, which took him back to his upbringing in Broward County.
"People don't know this," he posted on his blog, "but one of my best friends is Michael Irvin."
Because Monday's formal introduction of the Class of 2014 was announced in Dallas in advance of the NCAA Tournament championship game between Connecticut and Kentucky at AT&T Stadium, it led to another football moment for the former shooting guard with the musculature of a tight end.
"We had a chance to get together the other night and we reminisced and talked a lot," Richmond revealed in his blog post, prohibited by the Hall from commenting on his selection until Monday, just as former Heat center Alonzo Mourning could not comment until he was introduced in Dallas with the latest class of selectees that also included former Commissioner David Stern and former college coaches Nolan Richardson and Gary Williams.
"It's amazing where we came from," Richmond continued, with Irvin, who played scholastically at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2007. "People don't know that Michael was a phenomenal basketball player. We used to go to any neighborhood and play their three best players. We played for soda, for money, for anything, and we'd win.
"I went on to basketball, and he went on to football, but we remained great friends. It's unbelievable, two guys from the same area are Hall of Famers and best friends. Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith, also both Hall of Famers from Florida, were there too the other night."
Together, along with Richmond, who now works in the front office of the Sacramento Kings and arrived Thursday in Dallas, they kept the selection as secret as possible, a challenge even more imposing with Richmond calling his mother, "the TMZ of Fort Lauderdale."
Then came Monday, and another validation of a career light on winning but loaded with scoring accomplishments, as well as an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship.
"This is outstanding," he said Monday. "I'm mean, this is an honor, to go in the Hall of Fame, to be recognized as a Hall of Famer, with the struggles I had in my NBA career. I'm just ecstatic to represent the Hall."
Later, he said with a wide grin, "You can judge me, you can judge my game -- I'm a Hall of Famer, I don't care."
He said Monday was the culmination of what began on those Broward playgrounds and will continue with his Aug. 8 induction in Springfield, Mass.
"I think the most special thing for me is the friendships and the relationships that you build throughout your career," he said. "Every step that I've made, I ran into someone that really kind of impacted my life.
"Just picking up that orange ball has meant so much to me. It really kind of shaped the person who I am, just by playing that game."
He said the hardest part was meeting the Hall's request of not discussing his selection in advance.
"I didn't even remember the call. I just remember the guy said, 'You made it.' It was such a blessing," he said. "And I was so excited.
"I was actually in a scouting meeting with the Kings, and I saw 'Hall of Fame' over my phone. So I just went right out of the room and answered the phone and I was talking like I had talked never before. They didn't know why I was so excited, but I didn't tell anyone."
The only disappointment for Richmond was former Golden State Warriors teammate Tim Hardaway failing for the second consecutive season to make it into the Hall as a finalist. Richmond said he relished his Run TMC seasons alongside Hardaway and Hall of Fame forward Chris Mullin before moving on to mostly lean times with the Kings.
"I struggled most of my career as far as winning games," he said. "I don't think my ability to play struggled. I played with Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin and it was a flow that was so amazing to play. It was a free-for-all. It was great to have two other great players on a team with you and never know who they're going to double-team.
"Then I got traded to Sacramento, the organization that really embraced me. But it was a struggle. It was definitely a struggle. Those were tougher because all of my years that I ever picked up a basketball, we always were on the winning side of the game. To play seven years and go to the playoffs one time and not really see the national stage, it was really difficult. It's a team game, but I still had to go out and perform and play hard and do all those things. The love of the game probably saved me for that."
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Kansas State averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game over his 14-year NBA career. He won the 1988-89 NBA Rookie of the Year award as a member of the Warriors and made six All-Star teams, all with the Kings. He also played for the Washington Wizards and won the 2002 NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I enjoyed every step and every place the game of basketball has taken me," he wrote in his blog. "You turn around and it's been 30 years. It went so fast. I feel like a young guy at 48, and I'm in the Hall of Fame. It's so fascinating and amazing. This is truly the ultimate."
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