The Big Three. Every NBA team has had or longs to possess the right to bestow this name onto three of it’s best players. There have been many great Big Threes over the years but I will just take a moment to note the best of the best. Today we have the incredible (yet somehow still underrated), well oiled machine of Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan, and of course Boston’s deservingly glorified Three of Allen, KG & Pierce. If you’re my age, you grew up watching the crazy-good, highly entertaining Chicago Bulls with the threesome of Pippen, Jordan & Rodman (or Kerr depending on the viewer). But it was back in the good old days where the Big Three made it’s home and it’s mark on the future of basketball. Boston’s Original Big Three was highly potent and dominant winning three big, shiny trophies in five trips to the finals in the 1980s. These men were Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Larry Bird. Now let’s go way back to the late 1960s-early 1070s and Los Angeles’ three men of glory. Hall of Famers Jerry West, Elgin Baylor & (always a Warrior first) Mr. Wilt Chamberlain. Finally, arguably the best ever trio to grace the NBA hardwood was the spectacular supremacy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy & Magic Johnson. These men secured four Championship Trophies for LA in the 1980s, and they were pure class all the way. Lakers fans surly have something to be proud of when discussing this Big Three. I just hope all you TRUE Lakers fans do what GS fans had to do last season and school all the new bandwagon hoppers that will accumulate within the next couple months on the glory days of old. It’s easy and fun to live in the now but it’s just that much sweeter if you understand the grandeur that once was.
Me, I am a Warriors Fan until the day I die. My parents are mostly to blame for the large, stressed out portion of my heart that the Warriors own the rights to. I also blame local sports talk God, Gary Radnich, but I won’t get into that now. My Dad grew up a Warriors fan, born and raised in Collingswood, NJ, just across the bridge from Philly. My Mom grew up a Warriors fan born and raised in North Philly’s Kensington District. She always made sure to hit as many games as possible and back then, the athletes actually acted as normal people would. They frequented the local hang-outs and socialized with everyone. She even met Wilt on several occasions. Way before that, in the inaugural 1946-47 Season, the Philadelphia Warriors were actually the very first Championship Team in the history of the NBA (it was called the BAA for Basketball Association of America back then). When my family moved to California in 1982, The Warriors had a 20 year head start on us, having re-located to San Francisco in 1962. Reunited (and it feels so good). The rest is history.
Getting back to the subject at hand, my Big Three was none other than Mitch Richmond the pure scorer who could cut to the basket like a whisper of wind, Timmy Hardaway with his famous lightening-fast UTEP Two Step, and Chris Mullin the great all-around player with a sugar sweet lefty jumper. Together, they formed the highly entertaining flash that was, Run TMC.
What was not to love? With these guys on the court, basketball fans in the Bay finally had something to cheer about! It was 1989 when Hardaway, the Chicago born guard from The University of Texas El Paso was drafted 14th overall onto a Warriors Team with a cast of characters such as Rod Higgins (who until last year served as a Warriors GM), Tom Tolbert (who for the past 12 years has co-hosted the sports radio show The Razor & Mr. T, which Bay Area fans adore), Sarunas Marciulionis (who was a local hero after he rescued people trapped in a commuter train when the ‘89 earthquake hit, rocking his Warriors Warm ups of course), who could forget that crazy Sumatran, Manute Bol, and of course Mitch & Chris. TMC melded together right away, and beautiful things began to happen.
The 1989-90 Season
Tim had a nice rookie year with 14.7 PPG, 4 RPG, 8.7 APG (9th in the league), 2.1 SPG (10th in the league), in 33 minutes. His PER was 16.0 with a TS% of 52.5, and a crazy AST% of 36.4. Tim also led the Warriors in double-doubles with 30, and he put up 3 triple-doubles as well. He was second in voting for the ROY Award, losing to David Robinson, but he unanimously won All-Rookie First Team honors. Tim also became one of only four rookie players to make the top-ten list for assists and steals. Nellie had him start every game his rookie year and Bay Area fans fell in love with his killer crossover, unselfish play and fun-loving attitude on & off the court. Tim was an instant fan favorite who proved to be the Warriors’ missing key to success. We knew he “Got Skeeeeelz.” I know you older guys remember that line(; Mitch’s 1989-90 Season was his second year in the league. He was coming off a rookie season in which he won ROY Honors, averaging 22 PPG (not to mention a 17.2 PER & 54.1 TS% & 17 WS not bad for a rookie). What Mitch brought to the Warriors was the ability to score. From anywhere on the court, he could light you up. He didn’t just foolishly toss up threes, he would step in for the jumper always executing great judgment. Mitch also loved cutting to the hoop for that lay-up before the defenders even knew what happened. His TS% that season was 57.6 & PER 17.0, he averaged 22 PPG, 3 APG, & 4.6 RPG. As for Chris, he was coming off of a life-changing ordeal. In 1988, he underwent treatment for alcoholism. This was thanks to Nellie, who saw that Chris needed help with his problem, and decided to confront him instead of sweeping it under the rug like his previous Coach, George Karl had done. Chris agreed to go to rehab, and when his treatment was finished, he emerged a new man. He LIVED in the gym and discipline became his new habit. That season, Chris led the Warriors to the Second Round of the Playoffs where they lost to the Suns. He scored 29.4 on 54% shooting during the postseason. During the season Chris started every game and averaged 25 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG, he shot 88% from the line and had a career best PER of 22.7 while holding down a 4th best in the league 64.3 TS% (also his career best). That year he had 31 Win Shares and won All-NBA 3rd Team Honors. He also played on the 1990 All-Star Team. The Warriors rocked a Team Pace Factor that was #1 in the league, but also a horrid lack of defense (second to last in the league). Just like that, Nellieball was in full swing in the Bay. The Warriors and their Big Three just barely missed the playoffs finishing 5th in the Pacific Division. Everyone was as optimistic as possible, though. Coming off a season that brought instant star Tim Hardaway into the picture, it seemed clear that all three weapons were locked and loaded for a playoff run next season.
The 1990-91 Season
Once the highly anticipated season began, the Warriors got off to a quick start. In the very first game of the season they beat the Denver Nuggets 162-158. Run TMC racked up a killer 99 points between the three of them. Tim had 18 assists in that game as well. The Denver game set the pace for a very exciting season of Warriors Basketball behind the Big Three of the Bay. On November 11th they upset the Chicago Bulls 103-93 behind a combined 69 points from the three man powerhouse. The Warriors D held Pippen & Jordan to a combined 26 points. Another game of note was a sweet overtime win in New Jersey on January 15th. The Nets’ ROY Derrick Coleman put up 29 points and 18 rebounds but that wasn’t enough to stop TMC’s combined 81 points, 6 steals, 25 rebounds & 16 assists. The Warriors won that game by one point in Overtime to the dismay of a win-hungry Nets crowd. Just 2 games later and still on the road, the Warriors met Rick Mahorn, Hersey Hawkins and the Philadelphia 76ers for yet another crazy game in which TMC scored 104 points alone led by Tim’s 40. They beat the Sixers 141-138 in OT. The lost one to the T Wolves and then went on a tear winning four straight at home before falling into a bit of a slump, losing 11 of their next 16. They did recover nicely from that stretch with three consecutive blowouts at home. They ended the season with 5 straight wins including 3 against powerhouses Utah, LA & HOU. The Warriors finished the 1990-91 Season 44-38 and grabbed a playoff spot against the SA Spurs. The Dubs owned that series and knocked out the #2 Spurs 3 games to 1 and advanced to play the Lakers in the Western Conference Semis. Sadly, the combination of Magic, Worthy, Divac, Perkins & Scott was too much for the Warriors. They fell to LA in 5 games. During the playoff run, Tim averaged 25 PPG, 3.7 RPG & 11.2 APG. He racked up 28 steals and shot 48%. Mitch averaged 22.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and shot 50% from the field and 95% from the line. Chris averaged 23.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and had 12 blocks while shooting 52% from the field and 86% from the line on the series.
On the year, Chris averaged 25.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG & 4 APG. He had a PER of 21.4, TS% of 61.8 & 35 Win Shares. Mitch averaged 23.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and had a PER of 17.8 & TS% of 56.5. Tim averaged 22.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, & 4 RPG & had a PER of 20.9, TS% of 54.7, AST% of 36.8, and 28 Win Shares. Chris led the league in minutes played, was 4th in the league in Field Goals and won 2nd Team All-NBA Honors. Tim was 3rd in the league in Assists, and 4th in Steals. Additionally, TMC were 4th, 3rd & 1st respectively in MPG. Tim & Chris were both selected to the 1991 All-Star Game. Run TMC averaged 72.5 PPG this season which was just amazing.
What happened next is a still frequently talked about event that shocked Warriors players, fans, and pretty much anyone who remotely followed basketball back then. Don Nelson pulled the trigger on a trade which sent our beloved Mitch Richmond to Sacramento for Billy Owens. It was a move that Nellie has regretted ever since and even admitted to his stupidity in an interview. Mitch went on to have a great career in Sacramento and earn six All-Star appearances and a Gold Medal on the 1996 Dream Team. Because of this ill-advised and moronic trade, we will never know what may have become of the Warriors franchise in the early-mid nineties, but it sure as hell had all the makings of something truly special. Tim, Mitch & Chris had three completely unique personalities and styles of play. Chris boasts of how great they all got along on and off the court even though they were such different people. Tim was the motor-mouth smack talker always getting everyone all hyped up and clowning around before & after games, but on the court he demanded respect. He always played with a chip on his shoulder and was the strong vocal leader of the whole team. If there was a big shot to be taken, Tim wanted the ball in his hands & everybody knew that’s where it should be. Mitch was the mild-mannered straight up class act that didn’t complain and got along great with everyone. You could always count on him to be the level headed voice of reason. His teammates had given him the name, “The Rock” and it fit like a glove. On the hardwood, if you were stupid enough to leave him open, he’d make you pay dearly every time. Then there was Chris, the soft spoken guy from Brooklyn, always working out and trying to stay out of trouble. What he lacked in quickness on the court, he made up for using his big, huge basketball brain. He was one of the smartest players to play the game. At least that’s what my Dad always said. And trust me I believe him.
Run TMC had a short but sweet two years together. These guys brought non-stop action and a wonderful showing of teamwork to Bay Area fans. It’s no wonder the comparisons are constantly made to the three current Warriors with that lovely chemistry that could easily be called Run BMS. We all know family always finds itself drawn to one another no matter the journey they went through to find one another and reunite once again. Shit, all you have to do is go to the Warriors Front Office to find two-thirds of Run TMC. Our cherished Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Mullin and Special Assistant (and looking more gorgeous than ever) the one and only Mitch Richmond. But that’s not all, the Front Office & Staff is brimming with former Warriors. Alvin Attles & Nate Thurmond both serve as Ambassadors and Keith Smart is an Assistant Coach (our best in my opinion). Hell, we even brought back the guy who traded away Mitch Richmond AND the punk who pissed off THAT guy and ran him out of town! So in the end, I guess you really could say that the Warriors are the ultimate basketball family, and Run TMC, although only together for a heartbeat of the 62 years since inception, had an enormous effect on the franchise and the way basketball is played in Oakland, California. Run TMC is forever Our Big Three.