Updated: Mar 6
Throughout their history, the Golden State Warriors have been blessed with some of the greatest talents to come through the NBA. From Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Berry to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have seen some excellent basketball played within their confines. One player who is hardly forgotten is Chris Mullins who was the lynchpin on some high-scoring teams in the early 1990’s. His Run T.M.C. teams could score on anyone and the offense often ran through him. He personified the Warrior’s struggle for a championship. This is his story.
Christopher Paul Mullin was born on July 30, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. He became enthralled with the sport of basketball at an early age and spent his time admiring the play of his beloved Knicks. He even admired the greatness of the Boston Celtics and wore number 17 as a tribute to his favorite player, John Havlicek. He would often travel to the Bronx and Harlem to play against tougher competition, sharpening his game even further.
He began his high school career at Power Memorial High School, the alma mater of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but transferred to Xaverian High School before his junior year. He led Xaverian to the 1981 New York Class A State Championship. From there he accepted a scholarship to national power St. Johns University.
Under the tutelage of coach Lou Carnesecca, he averaged 16.6 points per game as a freshman, setting a school record for freshman. He was even better as a sophomore, averaging 19.1 points and leading the team to a final AP ranking of third in the nation. For his efforts, Chris Mullin was named the Big East Player of the Year. He would go on to win the award the next two years while respectively averaging 22.9 and 19.8 points. The NCAA took notice of his playmaking ability as he won a slew of individual awards after his senior
year, including the John R. Wooden Award and the UPI College Player of the Year. The Golden State Warriors took note of not just his scoring prowess but also his leadership ability and drafted him seventh overall in the 1985 NBA Draft
Starting his NBA career as a shooting guard, Chris Mullin set out to live his dream of playing with some of the greatest players on the planet. He started 30 games that year and averaged 14 points. His highest point of the year was scoring 24 points in a loss to the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics. The Warriors were not very good that year, winning just 30 games, but they knew that better days were ahead.
The 1986-1987 season would be Mullins' last as a shooting guard for quite a while. Under new coach George Karl, the Warriors improved to 42-40 and Mullins started every game while averaging 15.1 points per game. Golden State beat the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs but ultimately lost to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the next round.
Coming off a playoff season, Golden State expected to go further in the postseason the following year. However, the season soon spiraled out of control. George Karl was fired in the middle of the year and Ed Gregory took his place. He didn’t do much either, winning just four games, and the team won 20 games to end a disastrous season. The only bright spot was Chris Mullin, who had recently switched to small forward and had increased his point average to 20.2 points per game. While the season was a disappointment, help was on the way.
The Warriors hired Don Nelson to be their new coach in 1988-1989 and he immediately brought a fast paced system which suited the Warriors well, introducing “Nelly Ball” to an unsuspecting NBA. Nelson’s first draft pick was Mitch Richmond, a player who would provide so much joy and so much heartbreak during his short tenure with the franchise. It was a season of resurgence for Golden State as they won 43 games and made it back to the playoffs. It was good year for Mullin too as he was named an All Star for the first time and scored 26.5 points per game while averaging 5.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He would maintain that standard for the next four years, cementing his status as one of the NBA’s best players. Once again, the Warriors defeated the Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs but were eliminated in the next round by the Phoenix Suns.
After drafting Tim Hardaway in the 1989 NBA Draft, the Warriors stumbled to a 37-45 finish. However, they improved the next two years, winning 44 and 55 games respectively. It was at this time when Run TMC was born. A reference to the hip hop band Run DMC, the trio brought a shining light onto Golden State which had not been seen since it lost the conference finals in 1976. Featuring Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, the trio dominated defenses like never before.
The Warriors began the 1990-1991 season by defeating the Denver Nuggets in a 162-158 shootout. It was one of the highest scoring games in NBA history and became the statement game for this short-lived era in Golden State history. Throughout much of the season, the Warriors would struggle defensively, however, one of their best defensive games of the season was their first matchup against the Chicago Bulls. They held the eventual NBA champion to just 93 points and Michael Jordan to just 14. The terrific trio of Hardaway, Mullin and Richmond combined for 69 of the Warriors’ 103 points that night.
The rest of the season was much the same, with the offense leading the charge and the defense lagging behind. The Warriors finished the years 45-37. Each member of Run TMC would finish the year averaging more than 20 points per game with Chris Mullin carrying the load with 25.7 points. The Warriors defeated the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the Lakers in five games to close a memorable season.
Entering the 1991-1992 season, Mitch Richmond entered an arduous struggle with management over his contract. The battle waged deep into the early part of the season and on November 1, 1991 was traded to the Sacramento Kings along with Jes Epson for Billy Owens. It was a shocking move, one of which the Warriors never fully recovered. Gone were the high scoring days of Run TMC, where even the greatest teams would have to look at what the Warriors were doing with nothing awe and admiration in their eyes. From then on, Golden State fans all along the Bay Area have often wondered what could have been.
A New Beginning
When Mitch Richmond left, nothing was the same anymore in Golden State. There was a void that was felt within the whole organization and while Chris Mullin tried to fill that void, his efforts proved to be futile as age and injury caught up with him. His time with the Dream Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona was bitter sweet. Sure, it was great to play alongside the greatest collection of talent ever assembled, but Mullin was trying to win an NBA championship in Golden State and it was becoming increasingly clear that they had to have Richmond in order to compete with some very good teams in their conference and the Chicago Bulls, who were building a dynasty almost impossible to match in the modern era.
While Mullin finished the 1992-1993 season averaging more than 25 points for the fifth consecutive year, it was misleading as he only appeared in 46 games. The following year was worse for him as he was not voted an All Star and only averaged 16.8 points, a far cry from his lofty expectations. He only played in 25 games in 1994-1995 and averaged just 13.3 points per game the following year. At the conclusion of the season, it was clear that he needed a fresh start.
Before the 1997-1998 season, Chris Mullin was traded to the Indiana Pacers for center Erick Dampier and shooting guard/small forward Duane Ferrell. Mullin came to Indianapolis ready to play for his childhood hero, Larry Bird. He started every game that first year but scored a measly 11.3 points per game. However, he did make 107 three pointers, the most of his career. Mullin only played in 50 games the following year, scoring just 10.1 points per game.
The 1999-2000 season was almost everything that Chris Mullin had dreamed of as a child. The Pacers recorded 56 wins and won their division. Mullin was just a role player that year, starting two games and averaging 5.1 points in the 47 games of which he played. The playoffs were a magical time as they defeated in succession the Milwaukee Bucks (3-2), the Philadelphia 76ers (4-2) and the New York Knicks (4-2). At long last, Chris Mullin was headed to the NBA Finals, a childhood dream was just four wins away.
Unfortunately for Mullin and the Pacers, they had to contend with the NBA’s next great dynasty: the Lakers. Led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were on a mission to win their first championship since 1988. The series started with the Lakers winning the first two contests before the Pacers fought back, winning Game Three. Game Four was a major turning point in the series as the Lakers won a close contest 120-118 in overtime. Indiana was not going to go down quietly and won Game Five 120-87. However, the Lakers were great for a reason and they defeated the Pacers 116-111 in Game Six. Chris Mullin only played in three games and averaged 1.3 points.
At this point in his career it was well known that he was close to retirement, yet he couldn’t let it go that he was just two games away from being an NBA champion. Mullin decided to return for one more season and signed with Golden State as a small forward, his old position. At age 37, he was a shell of what he had once been and only appeared in 20 games, finishing the season averaging 5.8 points per game. At the conclusion of the 2000-2001 season, Chris Mullin retired from the NBA. He finished his career with 17,911 points, 1,530 steals and 4,035 rebounds. Chris Mullin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.
After his retirement, Chris Mullin was hired by Golden State to be a special assistant, ultimately rising to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. He and the Warriors parted ways after the 2008-2009 season and he immediately went into broadcasting, a career in which he still partakes in to this day. In 2015 he was hired to be the head coach at his alma mater, St. Johns University. In four seasons, he led the Red Storm to a 59-73 record and an appearance in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, where they would lose in the First Four to Arizona State University. He resigned from coaching after the loss. Chris Mullin began his life with a dream to make the NBA and to become a star. He achieved that dream through hard work and determination, winning over the hearts of Golden State fans everywhere.